“My goal is to create young people who voluntarily stand up to serve society, regardless of the profession they are in.”

For the students of Gamini Vidyalaya, Gayan Gunathilake is more than their music teacher. He is a mentor, guide, friend and confidant. A music graduate from the University of Visual and Performing Arts, Gayan’s first appointment brought him to Nuwara Eliya. As one of the few male teachers at the school, he was handed multiple extracurricular activities apart from teaching music by the then principal, which he obligingly took on.

Gayan doesn’t believe that his work is complete by simply covering the syllabus, as a teacher he feels his responsibility lies in making the students well balanced individuals. “I always wanted to give the students an opportunity to participate in as many competitions as possible. Over the years since I joined the school, I have supported students whenever they need me, whether it’s scouting, IT, drama, media or music. I have encouraged them to take part in short film competitions as well. I have also led the students in other aspects such as drug prevention and environmental protection. I believe the extracurricular activities, are important for personality development. The environment you are in, helps you become the person you are, so I use every opportunity to help students hone their talent and skills.”

Gayan, who hails from a remote village in the Badulla District, is all too familiar with growing up with financial constraints. He sees a younger version of himself in the students, who despite their impoverished background, are eager to study and take part in extracurricular activities. This motivates him to voluntarily support them in any way he can. This includes finding solutions to the numerous problems they face.  As a solution to a long-standing issue the students faced, which included the inability to bear the cost of travelling out of the city, to Colombo or elsewhere to participate in competitions, he mobilized teachers from 23 schools in the area, to create a fund for students in the arts stream, to be utilized when needed.

Gayan believes that students needed to be dealt with empathy and kindness. “Students are under pressure at school and home, as teachers we need to understand that. My approach to teaching and dealing with the students is different because of what I have learnt over the years, interacting with students from all walks of life. My university education has also moulded me into who I am today.”

Gayan who has won numerous accolades for his exemplary teaching skills and dedication to the students say that having a 100% success rate, as a music teacher, does not make him content. He lives by the philosophy that humans must help other humans and believes that each human being has a talent that can be harnessed to make them useful to the world. “I had a teacher who was generous enough to teach for free, and thanks to his support I have become the man I am today. Inspired by this I want to do more. My goal is to create young people who voluntarily stand up to serve society, regardless of the profession they are in.”