Last Friday, the Government, through the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development, renamed the St. James Secondary School the Frederick G. Smith Secondary School.
In recent weeks the country has seen the renaming of the Garrison Secondary into the Graydon Sealy Secondary and the St. Lucy Secondary as the Daryll Jordan Secondary.
Naturally, some Barbadians have questioned these decisions, with concerns predicated on everything from emotional attachment to the old names to charges of partisan politics in the selection of names for this honour. We do not seek to minimise anyone’s attachment to an old name, or any individual’s belief that someone else should have been chosen, but we state emphatically that the overall principle of the ministry has our total support.
In the case of the three schools, it would take one hell of the stretch to downplay the contribution of Sir Frederick, Jordan or Sealy to the development of this country, and in the case of the latter two, their direct contribution to the institutions that bear their name and to education generally.
What we believe ought to have happened is that the ministry should have declared its intention to rename a specific number of schools, publish in advance the names of the persons they have selected and additionally, invited Barbadians generally, communities where schools are located, or perhaps institutions associated with the schools, such as old scholars associations, to offer suggestions as well.
We would also suggest that it should go further, with the Government declaring that the naming, or renaming, policy would encompass buildings or locations of varying sorts, well outside of the education arena. We have no intention of jumping on the “oust the monarchy” bandwagon, but we do believe that as we strive to engender a greater sense of nationalism, our population ought to have vivid reminders of its sons and daughters who have done us proud. And there are lots of them.
Barbados would be served well if the process of renaming buildings or places of interest was accompanied by a deliberate programme of education, since it would appear that so many of our “heroes” are unknown to so many in our population. Many might have heard the names, but can’t recite a single fact about why they should be treated as persons of significance. That is perhaps why today we have children asking: Who is Frank Collymore-Hall?
We would hazard a guess that a majority of Barbadians today have no idea who Graydon Sealy is, and the naming of the Garrison School after him should just be a start. Perhaps Government should commission the staff of the Barbados Government Information Service, the Barbados Museum or some other appropriate agency to provide an on-line guide to every building or place that bears the name of Barbadian icon — an instant, electronic reference point.
Perhaps we should state it again: This is not about renaming buildings, as far as we are concern. It is about building national pride and identity. We don’t need to erase every reference to non-Barbadians who contributed to Barbadians, in whatever form, but we have more than enough opportunities to ensure that Barbadians who did are immortalised in stone.
Is there no Barbadian whose contribution to law makes him or her deserving of having their name replace the “Judicial Centre”? Is there no City merchant whose name should stand in the place of “Broad Street”? Is there not a lowly Barbadian whose contribution to farming would make him or her eligible to have their name engraved in a plaque over the Cheapside Market?
Can the contribution of tourism to the Barbados economy over the last four decades be quantified? And if so, what about the West Coast’s? So how about attaching the name of some hotel owner/manager/worker to Highway I — tourism’s gold coast?
Government just opened one high-rise office complex in Warrens, Baobab Towers, and is about to open another, Omni Tower. We are sure Mr. Baobab and Mrs Omni have done much for Barbados, but wouldn’t we do much more for national pride and psyche if two faithful public servants [not politicians] had their names inscribed on these buildings.
Barclays Bank no longer exist here, at least not in the form it used to, so how about attaching a name like Iris Bannochie or Edward Cumberbatch to Barclays Park?
We believe we have made our point. We have countless Barbadians who are deserving of honour and with the right policy in place we can reignite a sense of Barbadian pride that might just help us with some of the other social challenges we now face.
So Minister Jones, press your Cabinet colleagues to expand your initiative!