Guyana’s Premier Village
Theme for 2013: Milestones to Freedom: Resistance, Resolve, Emancipation & Entrepreneurship
The Buxton Emancipation Monument erected in 1938 to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation of Slaves.
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Pioneers of Education
By Nandi Tyrrell-Kellman
A familiar quote says: “we must know where we came from, to know where we are going.” And thus this introduction is necessary for us to understand the importance our foreparents placed on education and the value that we should too.
The village of Buxton was the centre of coffee, cocoa and arrowroot industries. After Emancipation, Buxton was bought by ex-slaves of Annandale in 1841 from Mr. James Archibald Holmes of Plantation New Orange Nassau. The land was surveyed and allotted a few years after. Its sister village of Friendship was formerly a cotton estate and was also bought by ex-slaves (at a higher price than Buxton) and the two were merged. Buxton comprised 580 acres and Friendship 700 acres. Buxton’s size and value therefore contribute to two of the many factors that go to make it regarded as the ‘Premier Village “of the Colony. At the time of the allotment reserves were left for schools, churches, cemetery and a playing field or recreation ground. The transport was passed in the name of the Stipendiary Magistrate on behalf of the proprietors, since very few of the slaves could read or write. This, however, caused them to realise the urgent need for education; and thus their interest and urge towards this attainment was manifested when they ensured that reserves were set aside for schools.
At the very inception of the village, education got its early start from the churches. Church-schools were first established to teach ex-slaves how to read the Bible and Hymn-book so that they could sing hymns and actively participate in the church services. The first of these was the St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, which started in 1838. At that time there was no established building for worship until sometime later in the same year when one was built on a piece of land which was donated by one of the proprietors of Friendship. The building served the dual purpose of church and school until 1841 when a church was built. After that it was used solely as a school. One Mr. Crawford was the first head teacher. The building lasted until 1951 when it was dismantled, and the present building constructed by the late Mr. David Abrams, with financial aid from the government.
At one time, the Anglican body had two separate schools. One was known as the St. Augustine’s Lower School, which was primarily an infant school; and the other which was the older building, was known as St. Augustine’s Upper School. This came about when a building which was formerly used as a chapel was given to the Diocese along with a piece of land. Since the older school was overcrowded, the gift was used as an infant school under Miss A.L. Joseph, Headteacher. Pupils continued up to Standard Two and were then transferred to the Upper School.
When a vacancy for a head teacher arose at the Upper School, Miss Dorcas Glasgow, the head teacher at the Lower School, was appointed. As there was no one to fill the new vacancy at the Lower School, the staff and pupils were then transferred to the Upper School and the two schools were amalgamated in 1929 as St. Augustine’s Church of England School.
Next was the Friendship Methodist School (‘Wesleyan School’) which was started in 1853 under Mr. Joseph Claxton, who died in 1863. He was succeeded by Mr. J. Waddy who was later transferred. Next was Mr. James Niles, who was an industrious worker. School was kept in Mr. Adam Rankin’s house at Buxton, and was later removed to the chapel. It continued there until 1870, when the Friendship Methodist School was built. Mr. Niles resigned and Mr. W. Osborne took over. He left soon afterwards and was succeeded by Mr. Edward Pieters of Kingston, Georgetown who worked there until he died. Among other head teachers were Mr. Mc Lean Ogle, Mr. Whitney Ogle and Mr. D.V. Jacobs who were all former pupils of the school. Friendship Methodist was the first ‘country’ (rural) school to win the Colony’s Inter- School Cricket Trophy.
Arundel Congregational School (‘Missionary School’) was first situated on the spot where the manse now stands. One Mr. Boston Castello was the first headteacher. He was succeeded by Mr. Evans and then Mr. Emanuel Joseph. During Mr. Joseph’s tenure the school was removed, in 1922, to its present site. Mr. Joseph resigned in 1924 and was succeeded by Mr. George Henry and then Mr. F.H. Pollard, a Buxtonian, who served for 13 years until 1937.
St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic School (‘Roman School’) was first held under the Catholic Presbytery with Mr. Giles as Headteacher. In 1910 the building was brought out to the front, and in 1914 a new building was erected, which was subsequently enlarged and renovated. It was the only Primary school in the southern part of the village and thus catered for the education of the majority of children in this area.
In 1930 the first Handicraft Centre (‘Trade School’) was started. It was housed in the building which housed the St. Augustine’s Lower School. Mr. A.D. Philadelphia, a skilled cabinet-maker of Friendship was appointed as Head of this school, as there was no trained Handicraft teacher at that time, living in the village. Later his nephew Mr. William A. Philadelphia (then Headteacher at St. Anthony’s) took a training course at the Kingston Handicraft Centre in Georgetown. Classes were held here, until it was transferred some years after to the building at Friendship Middle Walk and Railway Line. This School served as a training ground for boys who intended to take technical courses at the Government Technical Institute, or to learn a skill (or ‘Trade”). Each day of the week, boys from the Upper Division of the primary schools in the village, as well as those from neighbouring estates, attended classes at the centre. The boys from Friendship Government School (formerly the Anglican School) attended on Mondays, Catholic School on Tuesdays, Congregational on Wednesdays and Methodist on Fridays. On Thursday evenings, the master held classes for adults. Emphasis was placed on woodwork and leathercraft.
County High School was the ‘Pride and Joy ‘of Buxton. It was designed to enable parents to give their children a ‘high-school ‘or secondary education, at an affordable cost. Previously, children had to go to the high schools in Georgetown or to the Commercial School in Beterverwagting. Before the County High School was established, one Mr. Goliah held a secondary school in Flora’s Hall around 1919. This school had about 20 pupils. After he left Mr. Wilson and Rev. Algernon held schools simultaneously. Mr. Wilson’s school was known as Cummingsburg College. These two schools continued for about ten years. Later, Mr. S. A. Thierens carried on a Private School. There were over 100 pupils but there was little progress since he was the only teacher. On the 1st of September, 1956, Mr. Sydney King (now Eusi Kwayana) started County High at the Ebony Club. He was then the Principal and only teacher. On the first day only one pupil attended (Miss Princess Amsterdam). Within a few months the number steadily increased, and the Principal sought help from his brother Mr. Malcolm King. Pupils comprised Buxtonians and nearby villagers. In 1957 the school was removed to Flora’s Hall and two new teachers joined the staff – Mr. Benn, a retired Headteacher, and Mr. J Singh. In 1958 the school registered its first batch of pupils to sit the General Certificate Examination (GCE). Most were successful. Later that year, seven pupils registered for The College of Preceptors Examination (i.e. C.P.) They were all successful. In 1959 the school removed again, this time to the [former] home of Mr. Thierens. Since there continued to be a steady increase of pupils and staff, a bottom flat was constructed at the Principal’s residence to house two forms. From the time of its inception, the school had a functioning ‘commercial’ branch which taught secretarial skills (typing, shorthand etc.) Ms. C. Rogers was the teacher for this branch. This school continued to excel academically and was considered the ‘Premier High School’ on the East Coast of Demerara.
At the time of this research there were five kindergarten schools in the village; the oldest one being started in 1952 by a Miss Roache. The other teachers who had kindergarten schools were Miss Leander, Miss Ada Easton (‘Teacher Ada‘) Miss Agatha McKinnon (‘Teach’) and Miss McLennan (‘Miss Mac’). These schools were all held at the bottom-flat of the homes of these teachers and the curriculum was primarily picture-reading, story-telling, learning the alphabet (or ‘ABC’), learning to count and learning nursery rhymes and action songs-all ‘dished-out’ with healthy doses of love and discipline.
From the aforementioned it must be noted that very early in the life of Buxton, Education was given the importance it deserved and Buxtonians (and others who benefited) did excel.
“The race of people who do not thirst with assiduity for Education is doomed. You and your children must make the sacrifice. If you don’t, then the great dreams of the people who bought and established these villages will be undeservedly squandered.”
The Legendary Simeon Josephus “Prophet” Wills
At the dedication of The Buxton Monument
In honour of the Centenary Anniversary of Emancipation
1st August, 1938
The Buxton Scholarship
An Act of the British Guiana Parliament to provide for the administration of a fund for the granting of scholarships to children from the Buxton-Friendship District.
This scholarship enabled young Buxtonians to attend Queen’s College, Bishops’ High School and other top-rated secondary schools in Georgetown.
The first scholarship was awarded in 1925 to Balbir Ballgreene Nehaul, who attended Queen’s College and went on to become a Doctor of Medicine, specializing in Bacteriology and Pathology.
First runner-up was Claude Easton Holder, the youngest recipient at age 11, who also attended QC and went on to become a notable educator.
Second runner-up was Teacher Randall Butisingh. He was followed by Esther Fung.
Another notable winner of the scholarship was the late Winifred Thierens Gaskin. She attended Bishops’ High School and went on to become the first runner-up for the British Guiana Scholarship and later a teacher, politician and diplomat.
Year Recipient High School
1925 Balbir Ballgreene Nehaul Queen’s College
1925 Claude Holder Queen’s College
1926 Winifred Thierens-Gaskin Bishops’ High School
1927 John McKenzie
1928 Samuel Stephenson
1929 Martemus Fredericks
1931 George Talbot
1932 Cedric Smith
1934 Robert McRae
1935 Genevieve Ursula Jervis
1936 Winslow Edghill Queens College
1937 Fitzpatrick Ally Queen’s College
1960 Noreen Cockfield Tutorial High School
1964 Jennifer Lee-Ninvalle St. Joseph High School
1965 Charis (Bridget) Newton-Thompson St. Joseph High School
1966 Sholto Fox Queen’s College
1967 Rabindranath Tiwari Queen’s College
1968 Myrna Baird-Wilson St. Joseph High School
Chief Source: Buxton Friendship In Print & Memory by Eusi Kwayana
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