Arjuna Aluwihare, book shop, British Council, Chitra Wickramasuriya, CIDA, David Woolger, Geetha Premaratne, GELT, Janaki Galappatti, John Keleher, JVP, Mahinda Palihawadana, Neil Kemp, Nirmali Hettiarachchi, Paru Nagasunderam, Rex Baker, Richard Jarvis, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Valerie Young, Wilfred Jayasuriya
Though there was less work to do at the Council, I had much to do outside. First was a massive project with the Canadian International Development Agency to produce low cost readers. John Keleher had put me in touch with the CIDA head, a dynamic woman called Valerie Young, and we hit it off at once.
She had agreed to help with a new course the government had instituted, to teach English to prospective undergraduates before their university courses began. The former Commissioner of Motor Traffic, Wilfred Jayasuriya, had been put in charge, but he proved not only efficient but keenly interested in the subject. He had elaborate plans about the texts that should be prepared, but Valerie agreed with my suggestion that we produce small booklets in a range of subjects, and he fell in with the idea.
Wilfred was indeed a refreshing person to work with after the formulaic approach I had seen previously with regard to university level English. In addition to establishing a network of nearly 100 centres islandwide for the General English Language Teaching (GELT) Project as it was known, he had a series of training and other seminars. The one I remember best happened at the height of the JVP terror, when they used to declare days of mourning and forbid people to go to work. I was able to take the risk, since the Council was so near to my house, but my mother’s worries when I set out on days when hardly anyone was moving suggested how serious the problem could have been.
The last of Wilfred’s seminars was on such a day, and none of the participants turned up, except the keen old lady who coordinated the Centre at St. Servatius in Matara. She had obviously come to Colombo on the previous day, but how she managed to walk to the BMICH defeats me.