06/24/2015, 00.00
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Kumara Fernando, strength from faith to become "father" of the students in Bambukuliya

by Melani Manel Perera
The Catholic teacher heads the St John de baptist School where he is much loved by the students. In his faith, he found the vocation to “work for kids’ success”. Most of the latter come from a life of poverty.

Colombo (AsiaNews) - "I recognised what my commitment as a Christian had to be and so I decided to work for children and their success,” said P.C. Kumara Fernando, a Catholic teacher.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he described his role as principal at the St John de baptist School in the village of Bambukuliya, Archdiocese of Colombo (Western Province) in Sri Lanka.

The teacher took over the school just a year and a half ago, but he is already loved by his students, who consider him like a second father.

The school opened in 1928 and now has 21 teachers and 461 students, boys and girls, mostly from very poor families.

"I am Catholic,” Fernando told AsiaNews, “and I have been endowed with many talents, since birth. God gave me enough money to live with my wife, who is also a teacher, and with my children.”

“I realised that we were given all of our talents and strengths to be used for the needy.” For this reason, "when I came to this school, I felt that God had sent me in the right place, where I could develop both the facility and the students. I consider these kids as my children.”

“At first, there was a lot of work to do,” he noted. “The road to completing all our projects is still long, but I am really happy to serve in this school."

On 19-21 June, the principal organised a summer camp with the Sisters of the Holy Family to train 35 prefects (student monitors). They told AsiaNews that they were all enthusiastic about Prof Fernando.

"He arrived only a year and a half ago,” some prefects said, “but it is thanks to him if today we have a statue of Our Lady, an A-level class, a cafeteria, a stage to show our talents, a bicycle parking, a gate to protect our school and a security room”.

"Usually, the principal comes to school very early, around 5.30 am,” they noted. “He also teaches some courses. And sometimes, he stays late to help students who need something extra.”

The arrival of Sister Nirmala Jayakody, a nun with the Congregation of the Holy Family, as vice principal, made a difference. It was Prof Fernando who recruited the nun to teach at the school.

According to some kids, the dean’s main teaching “is to develop our talents, and work hard to become brave adults.”

“Over the years, we have seen many teachers take large salaries. Instead, what he does, he does it for free. He teaches us in words and deeds that it is more important to ‘earn’ good people than money.”

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