Education in Sri Lanka is a big deal. We have a very high literacy rate, said to be the highest in South Asia and one of the highest when comparing across the whole of Asia. I can’t help wonder though, could this at least partly be a result of, or due to the booming education industry? The government’s free education system is great in theory but there is also a glut of privately run schools, institutes and universities and not all of them deliver. Just to give you some context, our Sunday newspapers often carry TWO multi page educational supplements!
Schools in particular also seem to generate a certain amount of class divide. Of all the things we could have picked up from our British ex-overlords, is the status we seem to confer on those who went to a “good” school. Admittedly, I have not been completely immune to this phenomenon because I still have the occasional fantasy about reading English at Oxford but, that’s a subject for a different post. The number of times I have been asked what school I went to within the first 5 minutes of me meeting someone, well, it’s enough to make my blood boil. And I did attend one of these so called “good” schools – a private convent for girls in fact. Anyone listening to me swear in the vernacular would be hard pressed to imagine that I ever spent any time there.
So my complaint for today is that Sri Lanka appears to issue a hell of a lot of “school” stamps. Usually celebrating a centenary or some sort of anniversary, they are often poorly designed and rarely attractive (they almost always feature the physical school building) and honestly, you can’t imagine anyone except the students and teachers of the school in question actually wanting to buy these useless pieces of paper. How many stamps of mediocre buildings are you willing to collect anyway? Are these meant to encourage school children into philately somehow? Do other countries also issue such a large number of school themed stamps?
“Designs in connection with postage stamps and coinage may be described, I think, as the silent ambassadors on national taste”
W. B. Yeats (1865-1939), Irish poet, playwright
Now that I’m done complaining (for now) here’s a year by year listing of every single school stamp issued todate with links to their pages on colnect (an online stamp catalogue). Note the utterly shocking years of 1994 and 2001 all of which issued FOUR school stamps each.
Six years passed until someone realised the deep, yearning need in the world of philately for more school themed stamps from Sri Lanka. Al-Bahjathul Ibraheemiyyah Arabic College (stamp marking 100 years) and Newstead College (stamp marking 175 years) stepped up to the plate.
A truly glorious year for school themed stamps – Richmond College (Galle), Trinity College, St Thomas’ College (Matara) and St Joseph’s College (Trincomalee) all got a stamp each to commemorate their various anniversaries. The Richmond and Trinity stamps actually commemorated their Old Boys Associations (OBAs) and not the school specifically but I counted them in my list.
Now its been five straight years of regular school stamp issues. 1996 saw three school stamps from Chundikuli Girls College (Jaffna), Jaffna Central College and Vincent Girl’s High School (Batticaloa).
Thankfully, 1997 only saw one school stamp: St Servatius College (Matara).
Why was 1999 skipped when they were on such a roll? All I know is that the year 2000 was when we saw the next set of school stamps with St Patrick’s College (Jaffna), Ladies College and Wesley College coming to the rescue.
After a three year break, Sri Lanka’s Philatelic Bureau came back strong with three school stamps in 2007. The schools featured were Sri Sangamitta Balika School (Matale), K/Jabbar Central College (Galagedera) and St Henry’s College (Ilavalai).
Only one this year – St Mary’s Convent (Matara).
2010 saw three more school stamps with one each for Thurstan College, Kokuvil Hindu College and that shameless whore, Royal College who already had 2 stamps from 1985 taking their overall total to 3. However, the Ananda College four stamp haul of 1986 still takes the lead with regards to most number of stamps featuring a particular school.
Once more unto the breach with Carey College.
So far nothing. I live in hope.
Please note that I have excluded general educational themes, seminaries, pirivenas, universities, inter school cricket matches and so forth so this is only a selection of stamps that directly feature a particular school.
Since this topic was so fascinating, it is likely that I swooned in awe and missed a few stamps here and there, so please let me know if you find any omissions or errors in the above list.