R.I.T. Alles, Former Principal of D.S. Senanayake College Passes Away
By K. Thirukumaran
Founding principal of D.S. Senanayake College (DSSC), Colombo 7, Sri Lanka R.I.T. Alles passed away on Nov 28.
He was formerly a teacher at Royal College and after DSSC served as the State Secretary for Ministry of Education from 1989 to 1993 and was the Chairman of the Gateway Group.
I consider it to have been a privilege to be schooling at D.S. Senanayake College under him in the class of 1981.
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Ralph Ignatius Thomas – RIT Alles (3 October 1932 – 28 November 2013) is renowned as an Educationalist.
The school under him glowed in the country as a role model for studies, discipline of students, unity in diversity, dedicated teachers and parent-teacher cooperation. The school’s teachers under his leadership excelled in mentoring and nurturing of all the students who came under their care.
His charisma is sure an inspiration to students, teachers, parents and everyone alike he touched upon during his long profile as an educationist and till his departure.
I also think Sir is a trailblazer in instilling “Volunteerism” as a norm early on not only in our lives but spanned it to our earlier generation also, as how he motivated a large student-parent-teacher community in unprecedented ways in building up a huge institution that is named after the first Prime Minster of Ceylon on Gregory’s Road, Colombo 7.
As far as I know, DSSC is the only post independence Ceylon’s-post secondary school to be Tri-lingual and gaining prominence as one of the best in Sri Lanka. Credit is all his.
The school newly founded in 1967 with students of all ethnicity attending, became a ‘crown jewel’ and as the model destiny for Sri Lanka’s public education during the tenure of the founder Principal R.I.T. Alles.
D.S. Senanayake College under him pioneered “Unity in Diversity” as students of Sri Lanka’s all religions and languages co-existed in an exemplary manner under his guidance. He led the way in celebrating each other’s culture, language and heritage, starting at the school environment.
The present day school has added to the lead shown by Alles Sir in fostering “Unity in Diversity”, by facilitating dedicated shrines for Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam within its premises. D.S.Senanayake College is most likely the only school in Sri Lanka (if not the world) to have a Mosque, Vihare, Church and a Kovil in the school compound.
So long Sir, some of us were not lucky enough to serve near you like you always wished but nevertheless we are not gratitude-less, everyday of our lives for you.
One of his sons Malik passed away at the age 17 in 1984 during a sporting accident.
Sir leaves behind wife Rohini Madam (former teacher at Royal College), Tiran (parliamentarian) and Dr. Harsha and numerous “Puthas” as he called us all – his students and their families.
In the following article, Bogoda Premaratne, a Retired Sri Lanka Minsitry of Education official pays tribue to Mr. R.I.T. Alles marking his 75th birth Anniversary on October 3, 2007:
I have been asked by Mr. R.I.T. Alles to accept the first copy of his autobiography, R.I.T. Alles my life on the October 03, his 75th birth anniversary. Nostalgic memories come to my mind with the acceptance of his generous invitation.
In January 1967, I had a request from the Education Ministry to nominate a young teacher of mine to begin a new school at Gregory’s Road and build it up on the lines of Royal College of which I was the Principal.
This request was a daunting challenge because it came from a “No nonsense and no questions to be asked”, man, the then Education Minister I.M.R.A. Iriyagolla.
As the proposed school was going to be a primary school at the outset, naturally I scouted for one in my fold of trained teachers. Alles was one of four teachers who came to my aid, voluntarily to teach Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology in the O/L classes for the first time in the Swabasha at Royal College in 1965.
Mathematics was allocated to Alles and in 1965 and 1966. He was one of the four teachers who produced in a near 100% Distinctions and Credits in their respective subjects.
Alles during these years was instrumental in bringing to Royal the plums De Zoysa Challenge,and the Hermal Loos Challenge trophies in cadetting, the John Tarbet trophy in Athletics and the under 16 Cricket championship. In community work, Alles stood out as the much accepted Secretary of the Teachers Guild whose members acknowledged him as one who promoted the welfare activities of its members.
With these attributes of academic achievements both in and out of school and his personal relations with the members of the tutorial staff, I had no hesitation whatsoever to nominate Alles at the age of 34 to be the Founder Principal of DS Senanayake College.
R.I.T.A. (R.I.T. Alles) as I always endearingly refer to him never let me down from the very first day he took up the onerous task from the 10th of February 1967. I enjoyed reflected glory and plaudits for nominating him. In my heart he became my pride.
D.S. Senanayake school was started in Colombo on a site referred to as “Kooombi Kelle”. With all the arduous tasks ahead of him he never let me, the Maths students of the G.C.E. O/L classes and the Cadets, down. He made it a point to have afternoon classes for the Maths students who were sitting for the G.C.E. O/L examination in December,and also continued with the practices for the Cadets who were getting ready to go to Camp in April.
Such were the sacrifices R.I.T.A. made and the Maths Students and the Cadets of Royal reciprocated with love in clearing the viper infested jungle in Gregory’s Road. On my part I supplied him with every bit of stationery and even sacrificed my watcher, Danny for his security, which I did relish.
One thing that gladdened my heart most about with Alles’s style of professional approach to educational discipline and management was the quality of his interpersonal relationships that he maintained with the parents, teachers and foremost with the students of the school.
His school, for the most part came up out of the good-will of the parents. He had no old boys to help, at that time. For the first time I heard a Principal who could address all his students as “putha” and “puthala”.
There really was no need for Alles to have written his life story on perishable paper; for the quality of his character as teacher and educator that he has indelibly inscribed deep within the hearts and minds of so many young people, will be passed on from generation to generation without his knowing it, and even their knowing it. This is a psychological truth of which teachers and even parents are unfortunately not aware of.
I wish Alles many more years of benevolent service to our fellowmen.
R.I.T. Alles is an old boy of St. Aloysius College, Galle and St. Anthony’s College, Kandy.
Related: NewsFirst Bulletin ~
President Rajapaksa pays his last respects to R.I.T. Alles: