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Good Bajan names

The unveiling of the plaque at the A. Dacosta Edwards Primary School on June 22, 2011.

by Joyann Gill

Renaming and naming of schools in Barbados is nothing new, nor is it unique.

With three secondary schools recently renamed, the most recent occurring this morning in honour of an eminent jurist Sir Frederick Smith, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, recently set the record straight.

Acknowledging that it was primarily a policy decision on the part of Government to engage in this process, Jones stressed that history was replete with examples of how Barbadian schools were named — after churches, religious leaders, politicians and outstanding citizens in the community.

He explained that the development of education in Barbados, from its earliest times, showed heavy links to the church where “schools were in fact named after the dominant [denominations] — Anglican, Methodist, Moravian and Catholic…”

“Roebuck Moravian had Roebuck boys (to the left and the church to the East); You had All Saint’s (All Saint’s Girls and All Saint’s Boys); St. Martin’s Boys; St. Martin’s Girls; St. Bartholomew’s Boys and St. Bartholomew’s Girls and St. Catherine’s. They were all named after the dominant religion; the church of England, Catholocism,” he said.

The education minister explained that gradually, as schools moved from within the embrace and lands of the church to find greater capacity and greater space, some took on the names of outstanding citizens of Barbados “who hitherto had no recognition”.

“They were just a name on a written page of history. So, [you would find] St. Matthias Primary became the Arthur Smith Primary, built on a new location…,” Jones said.

Stressing that he was first and foremost an educator, Jones admitted to being a historian, to some extent, who upon examining the landscape saw outstanding citizens devoid of recognition.

“I said, we must recognise the outstanding contribution of our people from all walks of life… The lowly janitor at a school, whose reach in that community among the children was outstanding,” he added.

Explaining why the nursery school at St. David’s, in Christ Church was named after a janitor, he said: “When the ministry named the [nursery] school Thelma Berry, with the support of Cabinet, I did not know who Thelma Berry was! But somebody came to me and said: ‘We have an outstanding lady from this community who took care of every child’. She was a janitor; she was no educator in the sense of having professional training…”

It was further pointed out that the naming or renaming of schools was usually preceded by research on the part of the ministry to determine the suitability of the name and that this had occurred with the refurbished nursery school as well as George Lamming Primary at Flint Hall, St. Michael, an amalgam of Carrington’s and Erdiston Primary, named after the internationally renowned writer of In The Castle of My Skin.

To reinforce the point that decisions on naming or renaming were not always political, as perceived by some in society, the minister said: “I didn’t name George Lamming… I came [to office] and found that the school was to be called so after an outstanding citizen… I had the honour of opening it…”

Milton Lynch Primary School, the former Christ Church Boys’, was also spoken of in this vein, with Minister Jones stating that he had been an outstanding educator.

“Wherever you turned in Christ Church – Water Street, Lodge Road, Gall Hill, Scarborough, Maxwell, Cane Vale, you name it – the name came up and I said to Cabinet, ‘This is an outstanding candidate, can we rename Christ Church Boy’s School after him?’ And, that was done,” the former teacher of that school explained.

On the renaming of St. Patrick’s School in Christ Church, it was noted that it now bore the name of Gordon Walters because he was “the leading community and youth development officer, in Barbados, for years and all of us learnt at his feet at a time when youth groups in all of Barbados were extremely vibrant”.

Alluding to the renaming of St. Andrew’s Primary School, in 2011, to the A. DaCosta Edwards Primary School, the minister said: “He was an entrepreneur and there were persons across St. Andrew and St. Joseph who would tell you that had not for him they would not have had an education because they went to the Federal [High School] and he doled out scholarships left, right and centre for the education of poor people who otherwise would not have had [any]. The Federal was a private school but is no more. How can you celebrate the name of the man if not by naming an institution and particularly in a place where he was the representative?”

As he noted that the country must stop being “too narrow-minded”, the education minister turned attention to the recent renaming of secondary schools. He explained that previously schools were named after parishes in which they were located and he used as examples St. Lucy Secondary, St. James Secondary and St. George Secondary. And, he added that even the school at the Garrison was so called because of its location near the Garrison Savannah.

Reflecting on the renaming of the Garrison Secondary School on October 5, he noted that Graydon Sealy was revered by many across Barbados.

“I had to get the research done and he was the only name that came up. We put it to the school, its old scholars … who said ‘we want the school named after [Graydon Sealy]’. I don’t resist the pulse of the people…” Jones said.

There was a similar rationale given for renaming St. Lucy Secondary School on November 9, after Daryll Jordan and Jones maintained that from the beginning, there was a certain affinity to the man who was the first principal when the school opened in 1971.

He said: “St. Lucy Secondary from the beginning was called, and I will use the nickname – The Gosh School – a nickname for Daryll Jordan. The history must be known so people don’t get too fretful about such things. So, when I asked St. Lucy Secondary [for names] one name came forward… He has made men and women out of so many people… Daryll Jordan, no regrets!”

With the school at Trents, St. James renamed today, Jones was adamant that amid the resistance to the name change, Barbadians will come to recognise and laud the contribution of another eminent son of the soil, Sir Frederick Smith.

Noting that the former name of their school would not disappear as it was inscribed on the plaque [similar to what has happened at the two other schools], the education minister said it read: “The School was formerly called St. James Secondary, now renamed Frederick G. Smith Secondary School.”

He concluded: “And, when the history of [men like] Frederick Smith and Daryll Jordan is known to the students, to me, it becomes like an elixir, where persons can identify with the exemplary record, outstanding contribution and perhaps seek to make a difference in their own lives.”

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