Tuesday, March 7, 2017

'IDEA’17': A school, a club, and a competition

The oldest Quiz Competition here unveiled for the 26th time last year. The oldest Quiz Club celebrated its 59th Anniversary last year. Clubs and societies are like that. They age, they mature, they mellow. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s reason enough to forget the new, those that emerge and are on their way to the top. That is why quizzes ideally shouldn’t be differentiated on the basis of the age of the institution involved and why those who participate in them must accept defeat and victory with equanimity, regardless of their collective reputations.

Labuduwa is in Galle, situated about 15 minutes from town. Siridhamma College is in Labuduwa. Set up on February 6, 1995 on the initiative of the then Minister for Education Richard Pathirana, it has since come up to a reckonable level and has ensured that facilities, be they for syllabus or outside-syllabus subjects and societies, are not lacking in any degree. This is the story of a Quiz Competition it organised, and how that Competition, nondescript as it may be, has come to reflect the wider quizzing landscape in Sri Lanka.

On Monday, February 13, the General Knowledge Club of Siridhamma College unveiled “IDEA’17”. Attended to by more than 20 schools, including the “usual suspects”, it went through five rounds and ended with a tussle between Ananda College and Royal College, with the boys from Maradana defeating the boys from Cinnamon Gardens. That, however, is what’s usually reported in any event organised by any school. To delve further beyond this compels the question, “Why should we care?”

Two reasons. The first. Quizzing is no longer monopolised by a select few institutions. About 10 or 15 years ago, for instance, long before Sirasa TV organised Pentathlon and Swarnavahini organised the Tokyo Cement Quiz, only a few schools scattered in and around Colombo, Kandy, and Galle organised such competitions. This is not a one-off coincidence, this has a great deal to do with the level of interest professed by the authorities, both in other schools and in the government. Times have changed, thankfully, and with changing times so have mentalities and attitudes.

I suppose that is why, to a considerable extent at least, we have to be grateful to Sirasa. It didn’t just come up with another quiz when it gave us Pentathlon. It virtually altered our quizzing landscape by openly inviting every and any school that was interested in participating. Siridhamma College by that time, and even before, had come and splashed some colour to various other quizzes organised in and around Colombo, but with Sirasa TV it and a horde of other otherwise nondescript schools (most prominently, Weeraketiya Rajapaksa Maha Vidyalaya) virtually toppled more established institutions. “IDEA’17”, on that count, is a step in the right direction.

The second. Quizzing has today become a social leveller, demolishing old structures and encouraging us to doubt, dig, and develop. What I mean by this, of course, is that with the emergence of more clubs and societies which revolve around quizzes, the “market” for that pastime may well mature. That is reason enough to celebrate, because Sri Lanka has always been a veritable paradise for quizzers.

To this end, I’d like to quote the President of the General Knowledge Club at Siridhamma, Yasith Eranda Yapa Amarasekara: “We began this Club three years ago. So far we have organised inter-class competitions, so we felt that, given the manifest lack of school quizzes in the South compared with Colombo and Kandy, we needed a competition that could reach out to other parts of the country. We want to uplift the state of this activity in schools here and we want to ensure that everyone gets in regardless of where they come from.”

With this he mentioned some names of those who had helped them and had crossed that extra mile to do so: Ravindra Pushpakumara (Principal at Siridhamma), Chandana Pandithasekara (Deputy Principal in Charge), Sarath Kumarasiri (Teacher in Charge), and W. G. P. Namali (Assistant Teacher in Charge). Given that 24 schools came and encountered each other, I think it’s safe to surmise (and say) that their efforts have not been in vain.

That is why I look forward to “IDEA’18”, as a quizzer and as a citizen of this country. Not because I like the impulses behind such contests, but because Siridhamma College, Labuduwa has taken one step in proving that they need not be limited to that proverbial upper crust, by which I am not of course disparaging other, more established institutions elsewhere.

Written for: The Island YOUth, March 5 2017