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Reflections on my journey through The Boys’ Grammar School – part 1 of 5

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Thu, Apr 5. 2012

BY OSWALD FEREIRA
madungo@shaw.ca

CHAPTER ONE – WELCOME!

My life at the Boys’ Grammar School began on January 11, 1960. Together with 35 other boys who were successful in the Common Entrance Examinations, plus the Scholarship winners, we formed a class of 40 plus boys who embarked on a mostly academic journey in preparation for our various futures.{{more}}

The journey was arduous. In order to get into the BGS, a boy had to be successful in the Common Entrance Examination, or win one of the few available scholarships. Historically, the students from the schools in Kingstown area had an edge in the Common Entrance Examinations, and like me, the number of boys from the country schools who attended BGS were few indeed. Many of us had to write that Common Entrance Examination on more than one occasion. I was successful on my second attempt, but even so I was one of 36 boys accepted from a field of many hundreds who wrote the examination in 1959. I often wondered whatever happened to the others.

When the results arrived by post, I was thrilled to learn that I had passed and I was to become a student at such an esteemed institution. I was happy to have been offered such an opportunity, and I vowed to make the most of it. Even so, the experience was daunting, and weighed heavily on the shoulders of a twelve-year-old.

To a “country boy”, who at best had but one trip per year to Kingstown, suddenly attending school in Kingstown was a challenge. Even in 1960, the old school building with its myriad of steps leading up to the main door and Assembly Hall left me awestruck. To me, those stairs represented the daily struggle against the challenges of a secondary education, often leaving me with doubts of my worthiness. Here was I, a pre teen boy sitting with 40 plus other boys, most of them strangers, going from a system of one teacher all day every day to a system of several teachers each day, and with the new subject areas of French, Latin, Algebra, Geometry and English Literature. Then there were the Sixth Form Prefects who came around flexing their newly given powers, handing out “lines”. It was culture shock in the extreme. Nothing could have prepared me for this reality. I functioned, but I often felt lost, and despite success, I felt many shortcomings. It took several weeks to acclimatize to this new environment. Who would have thought that one could experience such culture shock in one’s own country?

The “country boys” who attended BGS had to travel by bus, which we had to catch promptly after school for the return trip or we would be left behind with no alternate form of transport home. Imagine facing a walk from Kingstown to Georgetown, Colonarie, or even Biabou. Even if we stayed with relatives or boarded with strangers in Kingstown, it was not the same as being with one’s family. We missed the freedoms and familiarity of home life. It was, therefore, difficult for most of the country boys to forge any bonds with our peers outside of the classroom situation, or to participate in any after school or extra-curricular activities. This to me was a major shortcoming of my education. We were also cut off from our former primary school friends during the week, and even if we associated with them on weekends, it was not the same. We had embarked on a different journey, and in some respect, that made us “different”, and our lives were forever changed.

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