Page 2, 17th December 1943

17th December 1943
Page 2
Page 2, 17th December 1943 — EDUCATION IN . BRITISH GUIANA

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Locations: Georgetown


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stR,---1 arn told that you have been sent reports on the status of Catholic schools in different parts of the Empire, and that your readers might be Interested to know something of the position in British Guiana.

The Churches, to quote from the report of the educational adviser appointed under the Colonial Welfare and Development Act, " took the initiative in providing schools for the people and bore much of the burden for many years." There are only six Government sdhools in the Colony, while seventy of the buildings belong to the Anglicans, 25 to the Church of Scotland, 24 to ourselves, 22 to the Methodists, and 37 to other Christian denominations. These schools arc now " fully aided," that is 10 say, they receive grants for both equipment and for maintenance of buildings. There are also a certain number of smaller schools in the more remote arms which receive a grant for salaries and equipment only. The teachers in het h Government and ." denominational " schools are paid by Government on the same (very inadequate) scale.

The nature] result of an educational system initiated by the Churches and only fostered by the Government at a later date, is that Church schools have to provide accommodation for many children other than those of theie own denomination. In our own case, out of a total attandance of nine thousand in the " fully-aided " schools, rather more than. half are Catholics. In the case of many of the other denominations the proportion is much less. Our own percentage is higher in Georgetown tin One large school as much as 98 per cent.), lower in the country (in one school as low as 9 per cent.). Needless to say, the staff is also mixed, though we have managed up till now to secure Catholic head teachers three or four of whom are nuns-and some assistants. This is looked upon as it grievance by some members of the teaching professionnamely. that they cannot normally rise to head teacherships except in schools of their own denomination, which may, of course, have few schools of its own. or even none. There is, too, a small but growing body of non-Christian Last Indian teachers. (The denomination, it should be added. appoints the teachers, who must be approved by the Education Department on professional grounds.) Something should be said of the extent of the aid given by Government. in the present year it has amounted, in the case of our own " fully-aided " schools, to about £347 for furniture and equipment (children buy their own school books), and about 1,4i, -for ordinary maintenance of buildings. In addition to this, Government has during the last four years granted £580 towards extension aod larger repairs, the total cost of which has been about £1,270. Even the ordinary maintenance gram is not sufficient-in 1933 it totalled only £148-and in the past ten years the vicariate has spent close on £8,000 in larger sums. The condition of many of our schools is generally admitted to be the best in tire Colony; but if this is so, what must the worst be like ? Nearly all schools are overcrowded, and some are hardly fit to be called schools at all. To remedy this state of affaies,' the Imperial Government proposes to make grants; but, as the above-mentioned report so nicely puts it, " the ownership 'of school buildings as the property of the Churches may impede expenditure for their improvement from public funds." A " Trust Scheme " has therefore been suggested, under which the Churches would transfer their buildings and sites to a semipublic body consisting of two representatives of the , denomination cancerned, and one appointed by Govern ment. But if in the future a school needed rebuilding, " it is suggested that the land should he transferred or leased to the Government and that the disposal ol the school should lie at the discretion of the Government, which might assign it to the Trust concerned or maintain it vs a Government school. The effect of this." it is admitted " would ht that the working efficiency of the (Trust, plan as a means of cooperation between the Churches and the Government would be subject to revision in each case as rebuilding became necessary.' If to this are added the suggestions with regard to the appointment of teachers, it -will be readily understood why we see in this scheme a plan to steal the schools from the Churches by degrees. " If salaries are paid by the Government, complete control of staff matters should be assumed by the Government. On this principle, Government would appoint teachers on the advice of the three trustees-but in the event of disagreement among these gentlemen the matter would be rererred to the Governor for his final decision The preponderance of denominational trustees on the boned of three would therefore be of no avail.

Unfortunately, the Churches are not unanimous in the matter. Some stand with us; but one or two seem in favour of a system of Government schools with provision for denominational (or " agreed ") religious instnaction. A large Committee

to o. to ihc ho

fitte liar gasbeiennappointewdblye future of education in the Colony on the lines of the official report, and one sub-committee will deal with " Dual Control." Thal is how things stand at the moment ; and it will readily be seen that the situation bristles with difficulties. There are more. in fact. than I have been able to indicate in the space of this letter.

F. C. FENN. 5.3.

Main St. Presbyter)', Georgetown.

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