It was rather encouraging to hear the Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, declare that a new secondary school would be built at Searles in Christ Church. There is no doubt that many of our secondary schools are overcrowded and I have always held the view that the average secondary school roll should not exceed 800 children.
As the Minister alluded to, the closure of the Louis Lynch Secondary School had compounded the large number of students at our secondary schools. The Minister was quick to point out that he was not in a position to disclose the name of the new school. However, it is the naming of the proposed new secondary school at Searles that I am concerned about.
There is no doubt that the still controversial closure of the Louis Lynch Secondary School was a setback in terms of the provision of adequate accommodation of our secondary aged population. It must have been an exasperating decision bearing in mind the fact, in the words of Jones, that it will take between $28 million and $30 million to construct the new school. However, there were very compelling environmental and health reasons that forced the closure of the Bridgetown school.
Renaming of schools in Barbados after outstanding Barbadians, particularly eminent educators, has been a common feature especially with the construction of new schools whether primary or secondary. As an educator, I have a particular bias towards the renaming of schools after outstanding educators since their contribution to the social and economic development of Barbados is almost immeasurable.
I believe therefore that the naming of schools should be reserved for the memories of these men and women who were the architects of our educational system. I am therefore of the view that although there is no longer a Louis Lynch Secondary School, that the name Louis Lynch should not be descended into oblivion. It is here that I am recommending that the new school at Searles be named the Louis Lynch Secondary School.
There is no doubt of the tremendous impact Mr Lynch has had on the development of Barbados. While his contribution was felt in the areas of athletics, community organizations and politics, for this article I would concentrate on his outstanding work in education. Nationally known for his establishment of the Modern High School in 1944 with two students, this institution filled an educational void that saw thousands of black working class Barbadians being able to pursue a secondary education.
It was in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that members of the Barbados Parliament were yearly advocating for increased places at the secondary level. The situation was then that there were too few places being offered by the island’s older grammar schools. It was therefore to the foresight of Mr Lynch that he established a learning institution nicknamed “the Harrison College of Roebuck” that eventually became the leading independent secondary school in Barbados.
The enterprising Mr Lynch was able to achieve a school roll of some 1,700 students, in addition to the provision of sixth form facilities. In fact, speaking recently to Sir Richard Cheltenham, he informed me that he was part of that academic class of persons who taught at the Roebuck Street institution. In fact, former Modernite Clyde Griffith, in commemorating the contribution of Lynch to education, had this to say:
“As part of his plan, he ensured that every year, those boys who won the Barbados Scholarship and waited a year to go abroad for continued study, would be employed as teachers. Thus Sir Henry Forde, Professor E.R.L. Walrond, Dr Jean Holder, Dr G.R.
DaC. Maynard, Sir Lloyd Sandiford, Sir Richard Haynes, the late G.E.T. Brancker, Senator R.O. Marville and N.G.A. Maxwell were all given an opportunity to demonstrate their brilliance and exhibit the discipline which eventually marked them for success in their lives.”
It is remarkable that the person who introduced the resolution to rename the Roebuck Secondary School was himself a product of that institution, no other than the then Member of Parliament, Mr Richard Byer. The former parliamentarian remarked that as an underprivileged youngster, he could not have been sitting in the House of Assembly were it not for the establishment of the Modern High School.
The Independent Secondary School movement, led by the Modern High School, included such schools as Lynch’s Secondary, The Ursuline Convent, Codrington High, Industry High, The Barbados Academy and the Unique High among others. They completely revolutionized secondary education in terms of increased access. In the academic year 1956-1957, the total private school attendance was 5,488, which went to 6,733 in academic year to 1962 -1963; 8,013 in 1972-1973 after which there was a gradual decline as more newer secondary schools were constructed.
Only this year, I attended the 24th annual Louis A. Lynch Memorial Lecture and must commend the Modern Old Scholars Association for commemorating the legacy of Mr Louis Lynch in the form of this annual series of lectures. On this occasion, a very inspired lecture was given by Dr Patricia Saul on ‘The Quest for Parity between Academic and Technical Education in Barbados’. The packed Grande Salle, Tom Adams Financial Centre, was a clear indication of the respect and adoration held by Barbadians for Lynch’s legacy.
My advice to the Old Scholars Association would be to ask the Government to consider the idea of such a proposal. A glance at some of the names on the Board of Trustees that I am familiar with – a former colleague of mine in education, Mrs Cora F. Waldron MBE; former Minister in Government and Diplomat, Mr Clyde Griffith; former Parliamentary Secretary In the Ministry of Education, MP Cynthia Forde, constitute a formidable voice that could persuade the government that the name Louis Lynch be given to the new school.
(Dr Dan C. Carter is an educator historian and author)