Buddhist Ladies’ College owes its origin to the initiative and enterprise of Mr. Mohandas De Mel, who for many years had taken a keen interest in Buddhist education. In fact he was carrying on a family tradition. His father, the late proctor Harry de Mel of Avissawella, founded the first Buddhist Swabasha School at Avissawella as early as in 1898, and few years later, the first Buddhist English School. In 1940 Mr. Mohandas de Mel founded Sitavaka Vidyalaya at Avissawella, the first Buddhist School there for higher education in English for both boys and girls. In 1947 this school was handed over to the Government. It is not surprising then that Mr. Mohandas de Mel conceived the idea of establishing another Buddhist School for girls in Colombo. In March 1954 several conferences were held and plans for the new school were discussed and formulated and Buddhist Ladies’ College started functioning from the 20th of May 1954, with Mrs. Clara Motwani as the first Principal.
As the Founder – Manager, the initial difficulties he had to face were many and of a colossal magnitude but with optimism, determination and hard work he won in the end. His first hurdle in setting up this School was to find a suitable location. This proved no easy task, and it was only three weeks prior to the scheduled opening of Buddhist Ladies’ College that the present premises then named Calverly Hall on Turret Road (now Dharmapala Mawatha) was obtained.
The next hurdle the Founder – Manager had to overcome was to find the much needed funds. To this end he committed all his financial resources at the disposal of the school. Generation of students, staff and other who have worked and those who will work in this institution will always feel indebted to him, for without his backing and courage against all odds, it would not have been possible to launch the school. Rallying round him were his family, relatives and personal friends and numerous supporters and well wishes. To all these people, BLC expresses its grateful thanks for the faith they had in him.
Within a short space of three weeks, classrooms and laboratories were made ready to accommodate the nucleus of 200 day students and 100 hostellers. He arranged for the work in treble shifts and the new buildings were ready for the school to open on 20th May 1954. As the students population increased, he arranged for more classrooms to be erected. Due to his careful planning and foresight he acquired larger and spacious bungalows in Colombo for the school hostels, to meet the demand from outstation parents who wanted their daughters to be students of BLC. A Principal’s residence was also secured in close proximity to the hostels.
In the initial stages he willingly assumed many administrative responsibilities and extended fullest co-operation to promote the interests of the school. Backing him in all his efforts was his dutiful wife, Mrs. Bernice de Mel. She gave unstintingly of her time to the school, and substantially supported him financially to get the school started. She shouldered many responsibilities and task unobtrusively, and did much of the tedious work. She also took a keen interest to ensure the smooth functioning of the hostels.
Mr. Mohandas de Mel was by nature a very generous person. He helped many parents who found it difficult financially to keep their children at BLC (which was a private, fee-levying school). By offering a number of full and half scholarships. These recipients are in deed grateful for these opportunities. His aim was to give them the best education possible in accordance with the Buddhist Way of Life.
His main interests in life were in Law and Education. He never cared to travel abroad. To him Sri Lanka was the World and he was a true son of Sri Lanka. He had rare charm a rare integrity and above all he was an educationaist. He was fiercely independent by nature and served his family, community and his country with dedication. In 1974 after a very brief illness, he passed away on the 27th December.
Buddhist Ladies’ College will carry into the 21st century the Founder Manager’s noble purpose of this school, which shall always be, “Move forward with perseverance”