Tag Archives: school

The Beginnings of Education for Black People in the British West Indies – Historical Notes (Antigua and Barbuda)

These are historical notes written and shared by Wadadli Pen team member and amateur historian/historical storyteller Barbara Arrindell via the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda’s and other social media with her encouragement that the knowledge be passed on. The was first shared in 2017 and resurfaced in May 2021 due to the interest around the observance of the first ever Vigo Blake Day. I am now getting around to posting it in 2022. Not through lack of priority but time; the good thing is this information is timeless. It is still of community interest for Antiguans and Barbudans but is also information worth knowing for Caribbean and other history buffs. Particularly those with interest in the evolution of education as a form of protest and society building in the Caribbean. Especially since the school in Bethesda is heralded by the keepers of its flame as the start of education for Black people in the British West Indies.


Image taken from a video by Petra Williams and The Spectator which also chronicles local culture and history.

In late 1812, Mr. & Mrs. Thwaites were visiting Lyon’s estate to worship there. After the service ended they heard children singing hymns. Following the sound they found an old man with a number of the estate children gathered around him. He was teaching them hymns and what he knew of the catechism.  This recognition that enslaved black adults could know enough of the teachings of the church  to pass it on to others led to a slight shift in the way the HART sisters expected education of the masses to unfold in Antigua.

[You can read a previous article by Barbara Arrindell on the Hart sister here]

The Thwaites spread the word. They wanted all enslaved black children and free black and white children in the vicinity who were being instructed by fellow slaves or free black men to gather with their teachers at Lyon’s on 13th February 1813. (204 years ago) More than 500 children turned up. Many of the teachers could not read but they taught whatever they knew.  They had memorised poetry and bible verses and even the alphabet. The Hart sisters wanted the children and adults to learn more.  Every other Sunday they gathered for reading and writing classes and the number of students grew. One Sunday afternoon as the Thwaites made their way from Lyon’s to their home in English Harbour they again noticed a peaceful rising with only grass and a few trees which seemed perfect for their dream school and possibly their home.

Vigo Blake, the head man (head slave) at Blake’s Estate, encouraged them to speak to those in charge and seek permission to use the land. He promised that if permission was granted he would get some of his fellow enslaved men to construct the schoolhouse for them in their spare time. Permission was sought and granted.  Vigo and his men started work and were instantly joined by men, women, and children from other estates who devoted their evening hours and early morning hours to building. In six weeks the 44ft. by 16ft. building with its roof made of the trash of sugar cane was ready.

On May 29th 1813, the first schoolroom built for the purpose of educating slaves [enslaved people] in the West Indies opened its doors. Many of the day students were enslaved people who were maimed or too old and fragile to contribute significantly to the wealth of the estate, Many were allowed to roam with little restriction. They were taught, so that they could teach others. In the evenings however,  two to three hundred people would make their way to the building called Bethesda. 

The earthen floor led to a challenge with chigoes for students and teachers. At the end of each night they painstakingly tried to remove all chigoes to prevent them from burying themselves into their skin and causing bigger problems. A few years later, at Hope Estate, not far away, another school room was constructed. A hurricane claimed that one but in 1821 a larger, stronger structure was built. This time it was financed by the Church Missionary Society. 


[This is a separate Barbara Arrindell posting which I have decided to share as an addendum to the article above. It too is part of the liberation education conversation]

Pictured are participants in my Jhohadli Writing Project/Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project on a field trip to the public statue commemorating the life of Prince Klass/King Court/Kwaku Takyi. The statue is the work of Sir Reginald Samuel.

October 20th should be a date known to all Antiguans and Barbudans for two reasons. On that day in 1736 a man was killed and on that day in 1818 a man was born. The first we believe was born a free man on the African continent ..the other was born when most Antiguan and Barbudan Black men were enslaved people. One, Kwaku Takyi, Prince Klass died trying to gain freedom for his people; The other, John Buckley, dedicated his life to emancipating his people from mental slavery. He at one time had more students enrolled in the school in Green Bay than the school presently accomodates. He and his wife also had 11 of their own to provide for at home. John Buckley was also the first Black Man, this man born during slavery on this island of Antigua, to be ordained as a Moravian Minister… the first in the world. It would be meaningful if our churches island wide (all denominations) could take a moment on Sunday 20th October to remember both of these freedom fighters. (Even just a moment of silence in their memory) It would be nice if all teachers would take a moment on Monday to tell their students about them. It would be even better if every citizen and resident would speak about these men on October 20th. Raise a toast to their memory at Sunday dinner. October 20th is a day for heroes. We will only know how great we can be if we remind each other of all that our ancestors have accomplished FOR US .. Will you fan the flame?

The copyright for the Vigo Blake article belongs to its author Barbara Arrindell who wrote: Please feel free to share this information. We learn so that we can teach others. This was first published on this Facebook page in Feb 20172021. The copyright for the addendum on Kwaku Tayki and John Buckley also belongs to its author Barbara Arrindell who wrote: Feel free to share this.

Minor edits only for punctuation – any notes from me in italics or square brackets.

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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A & B Arts Round Up – May 29th 2021 –>

June 2nd 2021 – author, Joan Underwood, will be hosting an IG live featuring tips and strategies from her book Manager’s First Aid kit. 7 p.m. AST @joan.h.underwood

May 30th 2021 – the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize Awards via zoom – come back here Sunday night for the results.

2020 winner Andre J P Warner with the Wadadli Pen Challenge plaque. Andre went on to win the Rebel Women Lit Caribbean Readers Choice of 2020 for best short fiction for his story ‘Bright Future for Tomorrow’.

May 29th 2021 – informal Vigo Blake Day – Bethesda Primary School anniversary activity on the school site – in memory of the first school in the Caribbean region for Black people. A community group works to make sure the history of the school is known.

Tuesdays –

A & B Arts Round Up – April 24th 2021 —> | Wadadli Pen

Be sure to check out the latest Carib Lit Plus (mid to late May 2021) for other arts events upcoming in Antigua and the region.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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I dug this from the 2014 Wadadli Pen submission files recently and thought it was worth sharing. It’s an article by Karen James, a teacher at St. John’s Catholic Primary and contender for the Lead by Example Teachers Prize. The first round judge assessed it “interesting, well researched, but not relevant for the purposes of the competition.” Keep in mind that the Teachers Prize Challenge was about producing a creative piece they could share with students as a model of what they themselves can do. There was also an issue with the length of the piece. That said, it definitely seemed like the kind of knowledge that should be passed on to other teachers and parents as well, which the judge also said. So, I thank Ms. James for giving permission to post it. In giving such permission, she said, “the research has paid off  and my son is now doing really well in secondary school”; and expressed the hope that it would be helpful to others as well. Each one teach one, we say, as we pass it on.

For some time now, I have been struggling to lead my child, a student in primary school, to a place of total success. Misspelt words, writing ‘b’ for ‘d’, copying wrong information and acquiring low grades in other subjects because of wrong spelling have become very depressing and tiring. The quest was on. I was determined to find out how to bring my child to a place of success. Through interviews, research, observations and discussion, I was surprised to find out that school attendance is not the only determinant for a child’s success but there are other surprising contributory factors.

A child’s attitude or perspective towards life can determine his success. According to the view point of the school, this originates in the home. Parental and family attitude about learning is one of the most significant factors that influence a child’s ability to succeed in school and society. When children know that their parents expect them to attend school consistently, earn good grades and complete their homework, they frequently live up to those expectations. However, children without those familial expectations do not tend to see the importance of education and are more likely to skip school, ignore homework and perform poorly. Families can create a culture of high academic expectations by ensuring that their child has adequate time and space to do his homework, and by regularly discussing the topics he is learning in school (www.livestrong.com/article).

Results from a research done by a group of teachers from the Teacher Training Department, Antigua, showed that children whose parents model good behaviour and reinforce positive attitudes in them tend to be successful in life. In addition, they are better individuals to associate with in society.   On the other hand, children whose parents model bad behaviour such as negative language towards life and their children, disrespectful attitudes and poor problem solving skills (e.g. fights and arguments) tend to be unsuccessful in life. Hence, parents should therefore ensure that they model good behaviour and problem solving skills, reinforce the rules given and give suitable punishments or rein forcers to guide students. These will help to mould or shape students’ attitude into a positive one, thereby allowing them to have a positive outlook on life and fulfil positive goals.

Society believes that in terms of socializing, the influence a child’s peers have on him and his reactions to such influence are vital in determining his success. Psychologists have recently studied the powerful role of ‘peer cultures’ in children’s success. These are a shared set of activities or routines, values, concerns, and attitudes that children produce and share in interaction with peers. In other words, they are a set of rules that groups of students live by. These rules can be positive or negative and have proven to have powerful impact on children’s success.

During a five-year enrolment in a secondary school in Antigua, it was observed that there were different groups of students who would socialize all of the time. The groups had the following basic commonalities: eating together, walking home from school together, mostly associating only among themselves and doing a lot of other things together. However, what set the groups apart was their decision to do or be part of negative or positive activities.

In terms of negative activities, these included vandalism, bullying, stealing, inappropriate dress code and use of indecent language. Before the end of the five-year period, the majority of the members in the negative group (“the ring leaders”) were expelled from school due to their lack of progress. The members from that group who were given a second chance joined positive groups and graduated with distinction. Twenty years later, they can be seen in different business places contributing positively to society. The others, who were expelled, are either in jail, addicted to drugs or basically live on the street.

On the other hand, some of the positive activities included studying together, respecting each other and each other’s property, getting involved in educational clubs, and volunteering in community projects. All of the members in this group graduated within the five-year period and went on to pursue higher studies. Twenty years later, all of them can be seen in different work places contributing significantly to society.

This therefore shows that in order for students to succeed, they should ensure that the norms in their groups are positive and support achievement in school and everyday life. Parents should also ensure that their children are interacting within positive peer cultures since they are more powerful in defining issues of style, socializing and motivation.

Similar to attitude, the school and society think that motivation originates in the home. Positive motivation, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, plays a vital role in a child’s success. Motivation is usually defined as an internal state that arouses, directs, and maintains behaviour. A child needs to be motivated daily in every aspect of his life. This will promote his interest, energize him to work harder and enhance behaviour. Studies show that when motivation is present at home, children are more successful in life.

Parents can motivate their children in many different ways and thereby enhance their success. Accomplishing a task, receiving good grades, and portraying good behaviour are some of the actions that children can be rewarded for in order to enhance their motivation.   They could be allowed to take their favourite snack, watch their television show or game, or have ‘free time’. Parents could praise their efforts, give them an allowance or even give them special privileges or responsibilities like choosing what will be for dinner.   Parents have observed that children enjoy being rewarded and when this is done on a regular basis the children have a desire to succeed and will succeed.

Additionally, society believes that time is another important factor to becoming successful from an early age. On a whole, society operates on time and in order for anyone to cope in society and be successful, he should be able to manage time properly. Research has shown that a child whose parents have good time management skills and therefore model it, grow up being able to do the same. They are high achievers in different aspects of their life. However, a child whose parents struggle with maintaining time schedules, or basically have poor time management skills, become under achievers. They tend to fail at different points in their life. The school also joins with society in support of this point.   Teachers suggest that parents should teach their children the importance of time management, make a time schedule of their child’s daily activities and most importantly model time management. This modelling is done by getting them to school on time, being on time for their appointments, completing assignments on time and any other activities which involve the child.

Another important factor influencing a child’s success, according to the school and society, is socioeconomic status (SES). This is a measure of a family’s relative position in a community, determined by a combination of parents’ income, occupation and level of education.   It is important that a child should generally be in good health to aid in his success. Most children are very active in life and need to maintain good health in order to succeed. SES influences success through basic growth needs such as nutrition and medical care. A lack of either can contribute to health problems, which in turn hamper their achievement. Parents with high SES are more likely to take their children to the doctor and dentist regularly than parents with low SES (Eggen, P. and Kauchak, D. (1992). Educational Psychology: Classroom Connections. New York: Merrill).

At a primary school recently, teachers were allowed to meet with parents whose children were underachievers to determine the reason. After individual and group discussions, the finding showed that 25 out of 30 students came to school each day without breakfast and went through the day without any thing wholesome or nutritious to eat.   It also showed that the same number of students had not visited the doctor or dentist in over three years. Further investigation showed that 20 of the 30 parents had low SES. Teachers suggested that students receive a balanced meal daily, eat healthy snacks and receive vitamin supplements.   A plan was put into action to ensure that this was done. The teachers also suggested that the parents take students to visit the doctor and dentist regularly. When students are in good health, they tend to be more successful in life.

In the view of parents, the availability of educational resources at home and school will aid in a child’s success. From a recently held Parents Workshop, which was conducted to inform parents of strategies they could use to enhance their child’s performance and their integration into the school system, parents observed and experienced the importance of using different manipulatives to solve problems in and out of the classroom. The idea was supported by all present and they pledged to use these manipulatives at home and also provide those needed for school.   Experienced resource individuals speaking at the workshop stated that students who used different resources such as additional workbooks, hands-on materials, or visited resource centres such as a museum, are more successful in life that those who do not use them.

Educational programmes or extended learning programmes have a similar impact on a child’s success. The school and society believe that enrolling a child into different educational programmes can enhance his success. Some of these programmes are the library, summer camps, sports clubs, reading clubs, or even extra classes in one or more subjects. Parents should observe their child’s weaknesses, strengths, likes or dislikes and discuss it with them, then select the right programme which will enhance their performance. Educational Programmes can be used to strengthen a child’s weakness, provide hands-on experiences, teach them a lifelong skill, form lifelong relationships with other children in these programmes and, most importantly, they contribute significantly to their success in life. According to Ohio’s Resources for Extended Learning Opportunities, a good extended learning program will help students improve self-confidence, reduce harmful behaviours including alcohol and drug abuse, and improve reading and math test scores. Extended learning opportunities may be school-based or community-based and provide fun, constructive activities after school, on weekends and during summer breaks (http://www.livestrong.com/video/2994-prepare-child-school/). It has further shown that students who grow up to succeed greatly in life have been a part of some sort of educational programme. Parents are therefore urged to reap the benefits of these programmes by enrolling their children.

Every parent’s dream is to have a successful child. Every child’s dream, no matter how low his achievement rate might be, is to do better or be successful in life. The key or secret to children’s success is not only the school they are enrolled in but the incorporation of beneficial factors which have been questioned, researched and tested. The integration of these factors will help to create or mould a child to become successful in life and they will be able to contribute greatly to society.

IF YOU LIKED THIS ARTICLE, you might also be interested in reading ‘One Model of Effective Parenting’.

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad! and, forthcoming, Burt Award finalist Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.

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Bee Champs – UPDATED

Seven Seas via Frank B. Armstrong and the Rotaract Club have been teaming up for the past few years to sponsor a national Spelling Bee. I’ve been a fan from the beginning; it’s highly competitive and also a fun and challenging way of increasing the word power of our young people. So, as I do with many things literary (okay, so this is specifically related to literacy but…), I thought I’d add them to the gallery. I don’t remember all the names (sorry) but the smiling faces say it all I think. So, big up to the organizers of this event, the schools which help prepare the kids, the parents who support them, the public which has been turning out in great numbers for the finals, and the kids themselves.

First year’s winner Simeon Carter of Buckley’s Primary.

2008’s top three including, far left, Kirshian Francis of Grace Christian Academy who went on to a second place finish in Regional competition.

2009 winner, also of Grace Christian Academy, Shantel Williams, flanked by the runners up, hoisting her trophy.

2010 top three, from left Kyesha Kendall of Piggotts Primary, winner Tatyana Halley of New Winthorpes, and Brenstan Browne of St. Michael’s.

New Winthorpes Primary student Tatyana Halley, the 2010 national champion, pictured at Regionals.

These are the 10 semi-finalists of the 2012 season. The ultimate winner was Tehillah Jackson of St. John’s Catholic, making it two years in a row for the school.



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