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Big birthday bash for Grammar School

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September 2008 will mark one hundred years of existence of the St. Vincent Grammar School formerly the Boys Grammar School. They have been slow off the mark but past students have now begun the process of setting in motion a number of activities to mark that milestone. I don’t know if this reflects the kind of differences we experience today with the approaches of males and females, but the St. Vincent Girls’ High School whose anniversary comes three years after, has long been on the ball.

There is something a bit confusing about the selection of the date to mark such an anniversary because in 1978 activities for a centenary celebration had taken place. It is however not as crazy as it seems and there is some method in the madness.{{more}} The original Grammar School emerged in 1849, a co-educational institution whose curriculum was described as “general, classical and mathematical.” It was short lived, having closed its doors in 1855 on account of a reduction of grants consequent on the depressed economic situation facing the country. There seemed to have been another Grammar School connected to the Church of England in 1865, however in 1878 a new Government Grammar School was opened on April 29th. This school ran into serious problems with its headmaster Mr. Ross and was closed after the withdrawal of the government subsidy in 1905.

A new Grammar School which the existing one claims as its parent opened in September 1908 as a boys school replacing the co-ed school that predated it and has had since then a period of continued existence. Its headmaster was Mr. F.W Reeves who also served as Inspector of Schools. It had an enrolment of 13 students which increased to 22 during its second term that ran from January to April. The Grammar School has had an outstanding record and played a central role in the development of the country, making its contribution in almost every area of life, particularly in sports and academics. 2008 therefore marks an important milestone that is well worth celebrating. The School has faced and like any other institution alive today is facing enormous challenges. Very often comparisons are made with the role, status and nature of the parent body. One factor that has to be taken into account is that it has been shorn of it’s A’ Level complement and this has certainly made a difference in a number of areas.

That school like any other institution formed at the time it was formed was colonial to its bones. It was for part of its early history also elitist. The school suffered when in trying to dismantle the colonial structures and shibboleths, we sought to throw out the baby with the bath water. Past students every where take pride in their alma mater, perhaps none more so than those of the Grenada Boys Secondary School who up until recently (I don’t know if it continues) used to host a big annual ‘barbecue’ at around the time of Caribana that attracted past students and their friends from far and wide. Many of the ‘old boys’ of our grammar school were made to feel ashamed of their association with the school in those days when we were trying to forge a post colonial identity.

The Grammar School today is still a major educational institution that continues to prepare young men to function in these trying times, times, in fact, that some people describe as a period of male marginalisation. Some have even tried to dramatise the situation by speaking of the male as an endangered species. In the past the school was a formidable institution that prepared people to function in the society of that time. The society is different today but there are perhaps certain values that should stand the test of time. Its motto, ‘per aspera ad astra’, for instance, is well worth preserving. I am sending out a call to past students to rally to the occasion not only to help to mark this significant milestone but also to assist in redirecting and guiding the school in this different and challenging environment. We who have benefited from this school need to give something back to it. The planning of activities has started late and so we have to be more limited and modest in what we seek to do. Perhaps among the other activities and objectives should be one to mark the occasion by the launching of a past student association that can work toward more longer term objectives, providing the school with a new mission statement that will encapsulate its new role in this era of globalisation and of a communication revolution. So the call is to get involved, assist the school and by extension the society and the men in our society.

We cry out for role models today and there are many persons, men and at one time women, who through their character and achievement can stand as strong role models. On this occasion of one hundred years celebration they can use the fact that they had passed through the doors to make a reconnection to the school and the society. One of the proud achievements of the school lies in the outstanding sportsmen who honed their skills on the playing field and even on the lawn that today belies the place it once was. Then there are long and lasting memories that come with every generation of students. Miss Emily’s mauby, being caned for the first time with the High School girls looking over from next door, the many pranks that were played by never to be forgotten characters who made their mark on the school in many unorthodox ways but with fun that was quite innocent compared to today, the detentions, the Sports days that attracted scores of Vincentians to the Playing Field, attending debating society meetings and what followed and the house feeds when we stuffed ourselves with ice cream and bully beef. Others will have their memories.

Then there were the many lasting friendships that were formed through sports, debating societies, among class mates, in the Cadets and Boy Scouts. The fact is that there are many of us who were shaped for better or for worse by that institution we call our alma mater. So there is the personal bond but there is also the societal connexion. To have lived for one hundred years is an indication of relevance. There is indeed a lot that is worth celebrating. Let us hope that the celebration makes a difference to the institution and to the lives of those it still helps to, and will continue to shape.

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