Barrouallie: Tales of different eras
February 1, 2013
Educational Tales cont’d

I am convinced that a large number of our children today have no chores to do. Many of them, I believe, are living life “at the touch of a button”.{{more}} There are many though, who are not so privileged; for these children, their existence is a daily struggle and, they understand the sacrifices which their parents have to make.

Those who are ambitious vow to work their way out of the cycle of poverty, by ensuring that they “take in their education”.

Here in Barrouallie, “back in the day”, life for “estate children” wasn’t a “bed of roses” either. Their parents ensured, however, that they sent them to school in order to “get an education”. Some of these children attended Ms Mandeville’s school. The building in which teacher Joy Davis and her family currently reside was the location of Ms Mandeville’s school.

Here the children learnt their ABCs et cetera. One elderly resident recalls how the cotton planters on Zion Mountain heard the children as they recited daily and how the teacher instructed them to “say it louder”. Then there was “old school” which had Teacher Sandy at its helm. The elderly residents here use one word to describe Teacher Sandy: disciplinarian, a no-nonsense man who wanted the children to learn. He, I was told, was from the Windward area.

They remember his mode of dress was mainly a khaki suit with two big pockets on the jacket. One of the pockets was used to conceal the feared “rod”. Most seemed to have made their assessment of his dress code and they concluded that the “cocoa brown suit” was the one which spelt trouble.

Many of the children of yore were well disciplined though and knew exactly what was expected of them. Some parents had to leave home before dawn in order to work on the estates. Their children had to, in many instances, make two trips to Peter’s Hope estate; firstly, to go for the fresh cow’s milk which was used as part of the morning’s breakfast and secondly, in order to take breakfast to their parents. All this was done before school started, so you can imagine how early they had to get out of “bed”…whatever bed was. In addition, these children had to do the daily house chores and tend animals.

One Barrouallie-born resident who now resides in New York remembers that in his era, he was taught a song which goes in part:

“Oh, good children rise up early and do your home duties”.

This tells us that punctuality was taken seriously and there was really no excuse for being late. Compared with today, too many of our children are late too often. After doing their chores, youngsters long ago found the rivers/ streams and the sea in order to get a bath.

They had to hustle in order to get to school on time. Many made it to assembly. For those who didn’t make it, they encountered closed doors; Teacher Sandy was on the inside with the “early birds”. He was definitely in charge. Those who were late obediently lined up on the steps and waited; I can only imagine that they waited with bated breath. At assembly one could hear, in addition to the hymns, the lusty singing:

“Good morning to you

Good morning to you

Good morning dear teachers

Good morning to you”

All this while, the late comers wondered what their fate was. Think about it, they must have quaked when they heard:

“Little children must be seen with their hands and faces clean clothes in order…”

That meant inspection by time as the wooden door was swung open. Each late comer was asked to give the reason why he/she was late. Because Teacher Sandy lived within the community, he knew the children whose parents made a living on the estates and very often they were excused, but it should not be a daily occurrence.

Children’s hair was inspected. He used his pen or chalk and “ran” it through the boys’ hair. He also inspected their nails. The rod was then used. The children, however, devised a way of getting past the “licks”, so books were used as padding in their shirts. Teacher Sandy was just as smart and discovered their “trick”; so at inspection, each boy’s shirt was pulled from his pants and, lo and behold, the evidence fell to the ground.

Ah, he knew each student by heart. He made a note of the absences and made his way to the wharf on afternoons. As he stood there, he took note of the children who were away from school for the day yet found time to frolic in the sea in the afternoon. Those children, I supposed, could not turn up next day, with an excuse thus: ”me bin sick”.

All of the children kept a straight face when they were in the presence of Teacher Sandy, but, I understand they had their say on the way from school, with each child saying his/ her piece. We shall follow those yesteryear children into their classrooms next week, God’s will.