Southlands College, also known as Southlands Girls, is a Girls’ schoollocated in Galle, southern capital of Sri Lanka. Southlands College is situated within the historical Galle fort.
Southlands College is the premier Girls school in Southern Sri Lanka. It was started during the British rule in 1885. Miss. Lucy Vanderstraaten was the first Principal. The school began in two larger down-stair rooms in a house in Fort with a group of some 50 children. At the beginning it was named “Wesleyan Girls School”.
Many dedicated Methodist missionary principals and local principals have rendered their valuable service during a period of 118 years to make Southlands one of the best Girls schools in Sri Lanka.
Long before Sri Lanka came under Western Rule, education was primarily in the hands of the priests in the village temple. It was the main institution for education. Under Portuguese and Dutch rulers the prevailing system was changed and gradually the church started running elementary schools in villages. When the British took over the administration in the 19th Century several changes were made in the country’s education system
“Another important influence that entered the island with British occupation was in the realm of Christian missionary education and religious activity. The liberal attitude toward private missionary activity soon attracted many missions to the Island. All these missionary societies concentrated on education, for this was held to be the key to conversion. The government was content to leave education, in the hands of the mission and to provide them with grants. Besides being economical, it was also the way education was organized in Britain. The British government in Ceylon had no consistent policy on education, and support to the missions depended on the predilections of the Governor. The missions opened and managed their own schools in various parts of the country on funds sent by home organizations.” (Arsaratnam, 1964: 154)
“The Chief Justice of Ceylon, Alexander Johnston on a visit to England in 1809 conferred with Wilberforce who recommended Ceylon as a field for a Wesleyan Mission….. The arrival of the first five Methodist Missionaries at Galle [took place in] June 1814 …. In 1884 Government gave up all its English schools except Royal College. The English schools were handed over to the Christian Missions ….The Government Girls High School which was in Galle Fort was handed over to the Methodist Mission.” (Roberts, 1993: 117-119)
In 1885 Wesleyan Girls School was opened with a group of 51 pupils in two large class rooms. Miss Lucy Vanderstraaten became the first Principal.
As recounted in the Southlands B.M.V Centenary 1885-1985 magazine, Miss Westlake was the 10th Principal of the school assuming duties as principal in 1907 and she served the school for eleven years. A new era dawned with her as the principal with many improvements occurring during her period. She travelled to college from the Wesleyan Missionary headquarters at Richmond Hill and is credited with opening up a hostel in a residence at Light House Street in Fort with four pupils and a teacher. She did her best to upgrade the school and to her credit there was a significant expansion of material resources of the school and steady improvement in the quality of education imparted to the students. A science room and a class room for the kindergarten children were newly built by her. The expenses to put up these buildings were met by the government, past pupils, and well wishers.
She was capable of doing all these improvements during her period due to her frugal and efficient management of the school finances. It was during her time in 1914 that the Past Pupils Association was formed. Southlands became the first school to have a Girl Guide Company in Galle. Miss Freethy who was the vice principal during Miss Westlake’s era became the principal of the school in 1918 when Miss Westlake left Sri Lanka.
During Miss Freethy’s time remarkable changes were done. The foremost of those was renaming the school as SOUTHLANDS in 1922. The name was chosen mainly to honour Miss Westlake for her distinguished work in the school since she had he training at Southlands Methodist College in Wimbledon, England. It is a very happy coincidence because Southlands is the premier Girls school in the South and also one of the oldest girls’ schools in Sri Lanka too.
Today Southlands has become a centre for learning not only in the South but also one of the national educational institutions in the Island.
Address: Lighthouse St, Galle 80000
Phone: 091 2 234117