Sir Charles Henry de Soysa played a leading role in the formulation of the Village Communities Ordinance of 1871, which introduced powers to enforce compulsory education. Education and literacy had been exclusive throughout the history of mankind until more recent times. Reformations from about the Renaissance Age, through to the Age of Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution bought about steady progress in the accessibility to education. Children of the working classes, the peasantry, and girls as a whole made impressive gains across western Europe in the nineteenth century. Similarly, access to education for the ordinary citizens of our country came during the British era via missionary schools. Whilst the vernacular education had been largely free during this era, it was the English education that was expensive and exclusive. Whilst, the de Soysas helped promote education in urban and rural communities and contributed to the diffusion of free English education, it was in the sphere of secular education and the education of girls that they made a stand out contribution.
In the 1850's, Gate Mudaliyer Jeronis de Soysa was a prime benefactor towards the construction of the library of the Hanguranketha Temple and another at Moratuwa. His brother, Gate Mudaliyer Susew de Soysa initiated education at Hanguranketa by building a rudimentary school, one of the earliest in the Central Province. The Hanguranketha Mission School which began in the 1850's evolved over the years aided by the Church and the descendants and now the government to become the CCS College today.
The Prince and Princess
of Wales' Colleges
CH de Soysa endowed a Chair of Divinity at his old school, S Thomas' College, but followed a secular policy at Prince of Wales College. In 1932 and 1959, Buddhist Principals were appointed.
A unique feature of the College was that it was a large purpose-built school from inception in 1876. It not only had a student population close to a thousand, but a third of them were girls, making Princess of Wales' College by far the largest girl's school in the Island and the first major attempt in the secular education of girls in the country.
Seventy years before the adoption of 'free education', most students at this institution had a free education, the government paid the salaries of the vernacular medium teachers, de Soysa provided the books, stationery and equipment, whilst about a quarter of the the English medium students were also facilitated a free education. English education was seen as an avenue for social mobility and was usually expensive and largely exclusive. The family originally endowed two plantations to the institution which was affiliated to the University of Calcutta.
St. John's College, Panadura
Founded by Gate Mudaliyer Susew de Soysa in 1876 as an Anglican institution.
Whilst a rudimentary school functioned from the premises of the church from about the 1830's, Mudaliyar de Soysa decided to build and expand a Church with a cemetery, a project begun by his father-in-law Hendrik Peiris III and located the school on a separate property gifted by him with two buildings. Consecrated St.John's College, it's first headmaster was Mr. Clement La Brooy and then Mr. JR Peiris before the appointment of Mr. Cyril Arnold Jansz.
The Ceylon Medical College was inaugurated in 1880 and the Ceylon University College in 1921. They were amalgamated in 1942 to from the University of Ceylon. The de Soysas funded the construction of several buildings to establish the Ceylon Medical College. In 1920, THA de Soysa sold Regina walawwa at a nominal price, partially intended as a gift to facilitate the establishment of the Ceylon University College, which materialized owing to the persistent demands of the Ceylon University Association (CUA). The university library was based at Villa Venezia, Queens road, a residence of Sir Marcus Fernando, a founder of the CUA. The University Sports Ground was gifted by ELF de Soysa, originally to Royal College, from his share of the Alfred House Estate. In 1960 and 64, Prof. PCC de Silva, the first Professor of Pediatrics in Sri Lanka, founded the University of Ceylon Department of Pediatrics, Colombo and Peradeniya.
Special Needs and Vocational Education
The Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, managed by the Anglican Church was the first such institution of the country. Located at Ratmalana on land gifted by Hon. AJR de Soysa, it inaugurated in 1912.
In 1871, CH de Soysa gave an impetus to the agricultural sector by establishing the Alfred Model Farm & Agriculture School, a center for training and experimentation on scientific lines. It's board of trustees included the superintendent of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens and the founder of Hakgala Gardens, George Kendrick Thwaites.
CH de Soysa sponsored the introduction of science education at his old schools, Royal and S Thomas' Colleges. The many rural schools and other developmental projects across the country where they had estates or other interests are too numerous, fragmentary and even lost to time. For instance, the De Soysa Mahavidhalaya Moratuwa, began as an extension of the Temple endowed by RES de Soysa, there were others at Marawila, Olaboduwa school patronised by Sir Wilfred de Soysa and the Ingiriya Christ Church school, now named Gamini Central College. A portion of the land gifted by Chevalier Jusey de Silva to establish the Convent of Our Lady of Victories has become St. Sebastian's Balika Vidhyalaya after 1962.