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Reflections on my journey through the Boys’ Grammar School – Part 5

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Tue, Apr 24. 2012

by OSWALD FEREIRA
madungo@shaw.ca

CHAPTER FIVE – MY HEADMASTERS

I attended the BGS at a time when all the Headmasters were non-Vincentians. We had a string of Barbadian Headmasters – Millar, Hughes, Worrell Crick and finally a Jamaican, Mr Morgan, who was called “Captain Morgan”. There was also Lopey and Reeves before them. Mr Millar signed my acceptance letter, but he was gone before I started my sojourn.{{more}}

I often wondered why a school of the calibre of the BGS, after so many years in existence, could not produce a Vincentian worthy of the office of Headmaster. Granted, under the circumstances the foreign Headmasters did yeoman service to our school. Some had long tenures, others came through the ranks and were promoted into the office, and others came to us in the twilight of their years, leaving me to wonder if they were our only option. Nevertheless, the marks they left were undeniable. During my time at the BGS, three of the four Houses were named after foreign Headmasters – Lopey, Reeves and Millar.

The 1960’s were a time when it appeared that confidence in local expertise and talents was in doubt. Perhaps it was a combination of several things. There was an obvious brain drain where our scholars decided, for whatever reasons, to serve abroad. Perhaps the lack of confidence in local talent was contributing to the brain drain. Perhaps the many opportunities abroad discouraged local talent from wanting to serve at home. Whatever the reasons, I struggled with the thought that not enough was being done by the Ministry of Education to ensure that Vincentians were trained and encouraged to assume leadership roles at the BGS. I reasoned that if the office was good enough for Barbadians and Jamaicans, it should be good enough for Vincentians.

I often felt that we needed a Vincentian in the office of Headmaster in order for the school to move forward. A local who knew the full context of Vincentian society and who perhaps came up through the BGS and was familiar with the struggles as a student may have been better placed to recommend and make changes to the school operations. For example, he may have understood the struggles of the “country boys” to fully integrate and perhaps arrange with the school alumni, as a service to the school community, to take in boys from the country, so that they could become more integrated in after- school activities. He may have been able to engage the school more with the broader community and cultivate a culture of service. He may have been better suited to relax the culture of control and address the issue of corporal punishment. He may have been better placed to incorporate elements of Vincentian culture into the school curriculum. I will never know, but it remains one of my regrets that a Vincentian was never at the helm during my years at the BGS.

I never developed any relationships with any headmaster. Mr Crick was the longest serving headmaster during my years at BGS. He was also the only headmaster who taught me – he taught me Math in Lower Fifth Form for an entire year and it was disappointing to me that he never really knew who I was. He insisted on calling me “Gonsalves”. In his eyes, I was Ralph’s little brother. I remember having the guts to confront him on this issue when I was in Form Six B. I explained that my name was Fereira and I was not Ralph’s little brother and for that matter I had no brothers. He got annoyed and walked away from me, calling me instead “Francis”. So, I went from being Ralph’s little brother to Julian’s big brother. So here was I, given two alter egos and none of the three were happy; I was certainly not amused. I am second cousin to Ralph and Julian, but second cousins do not a brother make! I just wanted to be recognized as Oswald Fereira.

Mr Crick left shortly after that episode and was replaced by Mr Morgan, “Captain Morgan” as we called him. Even though I was in Form Six A there was no real relationship with him. By the time I got to Form Six A it was customary to confer the title of Prefect to the entire Six A class. Mr. Morgan chose to deny that courtesy to a few of us, myself included. After some time, I presume on the urging of staff, he relented and we were all made Prefects and I received the Prefects’ badge. My last memory of Mr Morgan was after the Cambridge A Level results were released. I received the highest marks in the Science stream and won the St Vincent Agricultural Scholarship in 1967, at least that was the message I received. So, the following day, I went in to school to verify the result and to ask the procedure for accessing the Scholarship, as university to about to begin. I remember confirming the results and as I left for the Training Office, Mr Morgan happened to cross my path on the stairs. I remember his comments very well – “Morning Lord Fereira, so you only went and won the Scholarship”. I was somewhat taken aback. I guess no one expected me to do well in the A Levels, because I did not care about marks in Form Six A. I had one goal in mind, passing the A Levels. Six A marks did not matter to me because they would not get me into a university anywhere. So, perhaps I did surprise some folks. But I thought his comment was rather condescending. It would have meant so much to me had he walked up to me, shook my hand and said “congratulations my boy, good luck at university”. So, my last experience was one of a bitter-sweet memory; it just brought back the disappointment of the many weeks that I was denied the title of Prefect.

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