Dr. Fraser- Point of View
May 6, 2011
GHS – A great effort!

Well, this week sees the culmination of activities to commemorate 100 years of existence of the St.Vincent Girls’ High School, and really we have to applaud the alumni and present students for a job well done. When I compare what they have put into it with the tepid efforts of the students and alumni of the Boys’ Grammar School a few years ago, I am tempted to put it down to gender differences.{{more}} Really, what else is there to which one can attribute the marked differences? The ladies of the GHS started their planning a long time ago and took pride in what they were doing. Certainly the Girls’ High School continues to be one of, if not the leading secondary school in the island.

A large part of this has to do not only with strong and stable leadership over the years, but with the assistance provided by the alumni of the School. This follows a pattern which had been established a long time ago. I note that in 1925 the students of the school held a series of concerts to provide funds for the establishment of a School Library. Not only did they establish it but they were the ones who maintained it, with the help of the staff. An Old Girls’ Association was started in 1931, and it would appear that over the years the alumni of the school have remained committed and have put tremendous efforts into assisting the upkeep of their alma mater. But they seemed to have gone further to ensure that that spirit which they identified as a product of the school was passed on to those who came after. It will certainly have an impact on the students to know first of all that they are part of an institution that has been around for 100 years and also to be able to get to know and to identify with many of those who have passed through those gates, many of them having achieved high levels of accomplishment in a variety of fields. Their national road ‘relay’ held last year also had a great impact, particularly with many past students coming out and actively participating in the activity as they moved from one part of the island to another, and through the Grenadines. It was indeed inspiring.

My association with the Girls’ High School has been a long one. As a sixth former, I had to make my way there to take History and English classes, and for one term I did Geography with Mrs Hadley. Later, on returning to St.Vincent and the Grenadines after completing my Bachelor’s degree, I was without warning sent to teach at the GHS. It was an experience that is difficult to forget. I was, I believe, the second male teacher to be sent to that school, Professor Winston King having made the journey before me. But as a Grammar School boy, the Girls, High School meant more. We stood outside to look at the girls returning to school after lunch. I was not really a major participant because at those times I was likely to have been playing either football or cricket on the Lawn, depending on the season then. The girls sitting in the form room at the Girls’ High School that was adjacent to the Headmaster’s Office must have had a lot of stories to tell as they peeped to see who was getting caned. I am sure that my friend KD who wet his pants after the first stroke he received from the cane did not see them peeping, but they took in everything. Before Sports Day, it was usual to have boys and girls from both schools going to the Grammar School Playing Field on Saturday mornings to practise, or at times to have Heats. There was really a very close relationship between both schools and they were in fact sister schools or perhaps brother and sister schools.

A hundred years is certainly a long time, and not many institutions have had the privilege of lasting so long, much less being in the position to commemorate the occasion. It is really a proud moment. It was on Monday, May 8, 1911, that the small school of Mrs. Ince was given a vote as the Government signalled its intention to become involved in the education of girls at the secondary level. They had already started with the boys in 1908. In fact, following the devastation of the 1898 hurricane and the volcanic eruption of 1902, the Government felt it necessary to become more fully involved in education since the Churches were not in a position to repair or rebuild schools which they had controlled before.

There were certain landmarks. In 1928, the first Government scholarship to the School was established. In January 1935, the school moved from its location on Back Street to its present location at the Judge’s Lodge. A new building was erected and a connection was made between the Lodge which was the Headmistress’s Office, with an assembly hall below and the new building ‘by a covered concrete path’. The building which formerly housed the school was then used as offices for the Education and Sanitary Departments. Three years later, in 1938, the Houses- Grimble, Headmistress and Staff, replaced the ‘sets’ that were previously used. In that same year, Marcella de Freitas became the recipient of the Island Scholarship, the first girl to do so. The school has had a number of other landmarks over the years.

The fact that the School has maintained the standards of excellence with which it has been so long associated makes it easier for past students to rally to celebrate its 100 years of existence, but it has to be reemphasized that they were also a large part of the reason why the school has continued to excel. A lot has changed, particularly in the area of technology, and maybe the physical location of the school now needs to be looked at, especially when we see the physical structures of new secondary schools that have been recently established. If the GHS has to move into the forefront of the new technology that is now associated with learning, it might find that it will suffer severe handicaps with its location in buildings built a long time ago. It is true that the building does not the quality of the school really make, but even in attracting new teachers, they might find that teachers prefer to move to newer schools with better facilities in place.

So the GHS celebrates 100 years, but it has to put itself in a position to take a leading role in education in this country over the next 10 years and beyond. It has to begin to look ahead, and maybe the old Judge’s Lodge compound will remain a relic of the past, rather than a gateway to the future.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.