Most times, the brilliance of the wood fire comes from the effort of fanning, and not from any sudden strong rush of wind.
The Springer Memorial Secondary School –– located beside the official residence of the Governor General of Barbados –– is perhaps an educational outlier, whose academic and other achievements belie its expectations and challenges. If current performance and accomplishment of students and graduates are any guide, this institution may one day lead the future development of education in Barbados.
For example, this 1,200-all-girls school, opened in October, 1964, was initially populated by students from neighbouring communities –– The Ivy, Carrington’s Village, Two Mile Hill –– many of whom battled heavy traffic as they walked to school in uniforms with large pleats. They resorted to instruction under the trees when classrooms became hot, and played netball among cars in the parking lot.
Today, one must ask: how is it possible for an institution without a playing field to compete with others with large open campuses, and win the major athletic school championship 14 consecutive times?
This past spring, members and family of this school’s New York Alumni Association, with good reason, celebrated the silver jubilee of the school with a grand tea party on a Saturday afternoon at the popular Community Worship Centre in Bedford in Brooklyn. For some –– a few of the first students to attend the school –– the tea party was a reunion.
According Nancy Miller –– a cousin of Dame Billie Miller, she was happy to see and talk with Dr Gillian Marville whom she had not seen in years.
For others it was a family get-together.
Ninety-year-old Adele Watson sat with her daughters Vashti, Wendy, and Euraline (alumnae). Her smile was quite broad; her voice firm and clear.
“I never worked in my life. I raised all of them [pointing to her daughters]. That was my job. I am proud of them!”
At another table, Deborah Walkes, who is one of the many actors flying the Bajan cultural flag in New York. She was willing to share some school memories.
“I enjoyed every moment. School was actually good, although . . . hmm, it might also have been good if we had boys . . . . Two good memories . . . hmm, let me see.
“Yes, when it was very hot in the classroom, we had outdoor classes. Everyone grabbed and dragged a chair outside, and we had classes under the tree. Then, our school was built on sloping land. It had cellars. When the rain fell, we met under the cellars and talked about . . . [what mattered].
“I am very proud of what students are doing now. They are competitive; and even though we were often seen as the underdogs, they are certainly putting us on the map.”
After tea, master of ceremonies Ms Hall announced she was going to be “clean”.
“We are in a church. No dirty jokes!”
The Bible was her prop. Still, she kept the large audience in stitches, being the consummate educator.
“When was the first time maths was used in The Bible?” she asked.
“In Genesis, God said, multiply,” a guest shouted.
“You are right. Come, get your prize,” Ms Hall said.
A high point of the evening was the hat competition, which gave the judges headache.
Should the winner be 90-year-old Watson, who paraded on stage with the poise of a much younger adult?
In the end, the contestant who turned a rainbow fan into a hat, though simple, took the prize.
When the celebration of 50 years of accomplishment had ended, across the hearts of the proud alumnae, their families and friends was written Hats Off To Springer Memorial School!