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Overview of the Community Education in My Area

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This paper was prepared for Mr. Ian Green An Introduction to the Community, of Damarie Hill, and an Overview of Education, and Education in ‘DE OLE’ TIME DAYS. A Historical, Political, Cultural and Socio-economic Overview of My Community. I live at Damarie Hill, Guaico, just about five minutes drive before entering Sangre Grande, my town of origin. In my little community, there is almost every necessity needed, there is a primary school, walking distance away from my home, a savannah which is used by villagers for sporting and recreational events, a grocery, shops, hardware, a pre- school, day care centers, food outlets and of course bars. There are prominent government buildings such as; the Revenue Office, the Passport Office and the Regional Health Authority, just a stone throw away from my home. However, it was not always like this. Sangre Grande was underdeveloped up to the late nineteenth century. Sangre Grande is a small, but important town which is surrounded by a large agricultural area. The development of Sangre Grande was a result of, the internal organization of the colony of Trinidad 1849, the Spanish quarters; Barrios and Parish were inefficient in its functioning.

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A new ordinance was, enacted and the island was divided in Northern and Southern Districts. The two districts were further divided into four counties each. St. Andrew is the county in which Sangre Grande is located. The counties were even further divided into district and each into Wards. In the year 1886 Sangre Grande was connected by rail road to Arima. With the introduction of the rail road, there was an increase in the numbers of persons coming to Sangre Grande; which increase the sale of lands and business which subsequently grew and flourish. Individuals who settled in Sangre Grande, in the early stages of development engaged in the production of cocoa and coffee. In fact, my grandmother was an estate worker; picking cocoa; where she was paid 10 cent a basket provided that it did not get wet. In the 1950’s, estate workers were the lowest paid in the economic chain along with domestic workers.

Women were mainly hired to do domestic duties for these business owners and their families. By the year 1921, Sangre Grande had its own Police Station, Post office, Pharmacy, Primary Schools and churches. In 1965 under Crown Land Programme Livestock Farming was introduced, resulting in the establishment of the Agricultural Development Bank in 1970, providing farmers access to credit. Politically, Damarie Hill is located in the constituency of Toco/Sangre Grande; under the watch full eyes of Ms. Elizabeth Waton the Councilor for my district. The Sangre Grande Regional Corporation is responsible for the up keeping of the village. Many years ago Damarie Hill, had an active group called the village council. They were known as a ‘no non-sense group’. They seek betterment for villagers, in respect to water, road conditions, donations for football and netball clubs which were very vibrant in the 60s’-70s. With the introduction local government election, this group has subsided. Sangre Grande has produce great personalities we have individual such Ms. Peggy-Ann Castanada- Phillip for Netball, many calypsonians such as, Eric Taylor (the pink Panther), Irwin Reyes Johnson (Scrunter), just to mention a few, not forgetting Cordettes Steel Orchestra; in which many members were from Damarie Hill.

An Historical Overview of Education in My Community and Environs

Damarie Hill is situated in the North Eastern Educational District. Education in my community has come a long way, from colonialism to independence and now into the twenty first century. Before independence, the town of Sangre Grande was limited in terms of facilities, and the open opportunity to education for all. When we were governed by the British Queen there was no free high schools in Sangre Grande, however there were primary schools. In those days, education was provided by mainly missionaries’, it was very difficult to get into a primary school; one had to join a particular religion to be able to enter that primary school. In the pre-independence days, there were private schools that would accommodate children from three – seven years (3-7), at a cost of course, which we call pre- schools today. As a result of the difficulties to get into a primary school, some children only entered school at age seven. Before independence there was Cunapo St. Francis R. C, Sangre Grande Seventh- Day Adventist, Sangre Grande R. C and Guaico Presbyterian, the one in which I attended.

In the year 1956, Dr. Eric Williams and the P. N. M won election at the polls, with this victory bought two promises which change the educational landscape of Trinidad and Tobago, by extension Sangre Grande. They promise reorganization and expansion, this meant that their goals were to raise the academic standard to suite the political, social, and economical needs of the country. The other promise was a declaration that everyone had a right to education, this lead to the need for expansions of schools.

With Sangre Grande benefiting with its first Government College, being one of the secondary modern school, North Eastern College (1961). In colonial times, just a few children would be selected through The College Exhibition. Now with the introduction of the Common Entrance Examination, those who did well would secure a place at a government high school or government assisted high school at no cost. As our country experienced an oil boom in the 70’s, a lot of money was invested in the infrastructure and education of Trinidad and Tobago. By government keeping with the Draft Plan, Sangre Grande benefitted with another high school, the Sangre Grande Junior Secondary School. Toco Composite was also build in this era, which helped with the number of children having to leave Toco and environs to come to Sangre Grande.

There was even further reform in the educational system, with the addition of the Secondary Education Modernization Programme ‘SEMP’ in the year 2000. Sangre Grande benefitted with two more schools; Guaico Secondary and SWAHA Hindu College. The town of Sangre Grande has private high schools such as Bates Memorial High, and Sangre Grande Educational Institute.

Education in de ole time days As mentioned earlier primary education in the colonial days was very difficult for the poor man and or for those who refuse to join any religious body. Schools were established as a result of different denomination promoting their religion. As history has it, not all children could afford secondary school in Sangre Grande. Most mothers were home makers, a few were low class worker, and there were more boys in school than girls. Society believed that the male hold the responsibility of being the bread winner in the home, but most parents made efforts to ensure that their children were given at least primary education.

According to Ms. Gracelyn Cassanova, a retired teacher, who recalled her school journey as nothing less than, a great life learning experience. She reflected on primary school, as children had great respect for their teachers and parents also respected the measure of discipline executed on their children. Corporal punishment was accepted in schools, and it was used to discipline students who may have gotten too much of work wrong, or reaching late a number of times. She did mention that she was not faced with racism in that particular school, however some of her friends were victims at the Presbyterian school; where the children of African descent trained in sports, and children of the East Indian descent were kept inside to focus academically. Ms. Cassanova vividly recalled entering primary school at age seven, because of the difficulty faced by her parent for placement into the primary school, however at that time her mother was a school cleaner. Because she attended private school, which is known to us as pre-school, she skipped classes and was placed in standard two. She never recall being punish for anything, she claimed she was very obedient to her parent and teachers. After losing her father to cancer at the age of eight, her responsibility was extremely high, usually; she had chores before and after school, along with three other siblings. Ms. Gracelyn, naturally have a love for teaching, a disciplinarian, whom I have known all my life; all ways willing to help a child in need of academic support. She wrote the Common Entrance Examination in the year1966, and was successful, securing a place at the newly built, North Eastern College. Life at northern was enjoyable she exclaim, made new friends, she said that children in her times were very competitive and focus, they came to school with a mind set to learn, conversation in there time was built on careers and goals even though there were not much resources like now, but they got free books at high school. She entered the teaching service at the tender age of nineteen years. At the end of her third year, she attended the Mausica Teachers’ College for two years, there she was trained and reentered the teaching service. While this was the experience of Mrs. Cassanova, it was much different for Mrs. Donna Martin.

Mrs. Martin started primary school at the age of six, she mentioned her primary school day was enjoyable. Her father worked as a laborer at Ministry of Works her mother a home maker for many years. Mrs. Martin is one of the younger siblings and never had many chores to do, she spent much time studying, and her elder siblings were very studious, therefore setting a great example for her. Donna recalled many activities she engage in at Cunapo St. Francis R. C School, and looked forward to their annual sports day. Her head master was very strict and didn’t want to know why homework wasn’t done; if not completed they would get licks with a whip, however she was a very obedient child, unlike some of her friends, they even asked for answers at times. With the introduction of the Common Entrance Examination, she wrote in the second year, and was successful, passing for North Eastern College. She reminisced on how much fun she had at high school, in the early 70’s, she took part in table tennis, and loved to watch the boys play basketball. In form four, even being an excellent student, she broke school as we would call it to go river. “The next day of school I was called in to office by the head master, I was scared to pee myself, because I knew what I did” Mrs. Martin lamented. She was so afraid, as the principal asked her concerning her whereabouts the day before, she ‘spill d beans’. Well her parents were called in, along with all the friends that were involved and there parent.

To make a long story short Ms. Martin got a licking she never forgot, escape suspension because of her excellent academic history at the school. She was even threatened by her parent, to break friendship with those whom she got in trouble with, however there were not many of these incidents in her time. Looking back at the education structure, not everyone had the opportunity to receive high school education, as it is now. The government has invested heavily in education; even to tertiary levels: With the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE), paying up to 100% financing for students, and Higher Education Loan programme (HELP) to assist with tertiary expenses. In respect to delinquency, there were rare cases of such attitudes displayed by pupils, in old time, compared to the level of disrespect that is experience in the school environment. Parents long ago had regards for teacher, unlike now. Education policies have change, laws concerning children in the school also changed, rights and equality tends to be the cry for today, but have it all contributed to a better society? Why are there still a high number of drop out? Why is crime so dominant in a more educated society? In my view the value of education has surpassed the value of the need to be a good and moral citizens.

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