The timing was excellent: Past students of an early post-emancipation school which was opened by descendants of slaves launching a scholarship for others down the former slave line, five days before the 179th Anniversary of Emancipation.
Such was the case on Saturday night when members of the announced the Mellis Gooding Memorial Scholarship Fund to assist students in pursuit of tertiary education.
James Albert Lynch opened the secondary school in his name in 1886, welcoming members of the majority black population – a populace that mainly comprised the first generation of a post-slavery Barbados.
Mellis Gooding, after whom the scholarship is named, came along in the following century. She spent more than half a century teaching English, English Literature, Religious Education, and Arts and Craft.
“She spent just over 50 years in the profession. Forty-four of those years were spent at Lynch’s Secondary, 15 of these as principal and the remaining six years as principal of the Gooding Private School,” said Ruth Hinds, who read Gooding’s citation at the Clock Tower, the Garrison, where a fundraising dinner was held.
“As principal of the Lynch’s Secondary School and leader of the Barbados Independent Schools Association, she fought for the recognition and support of the Government for private secondary schools in Barbados,” Hinds said of Gooding.
“These schools were integral partners in providing quality education for students who, due to the limited spaces, were excluded from the established schools.”
In 2001, Government bestowed on Gooding the Barbados Centennial Honour (BCH) “for her sterling contribution to education and to community work in Barbados”.
Her dedication was one of the reasons that it came as no surprise that the scholarship was named after her, but another practical reason was that members of this vibrant alumni knew her and benefitted directly from her tutoring.
In doing so, they found themselves the last in a line of black Barbadians to gain from the knowledge dispensed in a school opened less than half a century after Barbadian and other Caribbean blacks became officially free people.
“James Albert Lynch should be celebrated for that vision to bring forward, 48 years after the abolition of slavery, an institution which went as far down as 1991 [when it was finally closed]. One hundred and five years of educating the masses of people, a segment of the Barbadian population,” commented Minister of Education Ronald Jones in delivering the speech at the dinner.
He said that Lynch’s feat was all the more extraordinary because his vision saw “a secondary school being established to educate poor working-class people who had their origins essentially in Africa…bearing in mind that Barbados as a society was emerging out of 1838, which was the emancipation, the final nail in the coffin of exploitation at that time”.
Speculating that Lynch probably did not experience slavery himself but was a likely offspring of slaves, Jones said: “Think about it and see what kind of contribution, 48 years after emancipation that… a person who was at the edge of the slave experience…could have said, looking across the spectrum of Barbados, ‘there is a need to educate persons of African ancestry in Barbados’, and went ahead and did it.”
The alumni used the Saturday night launch to celebrate the recent discovery of a Lynch’s Secondary student who later became a teacher.
Seventy-nine year-old Brenda Gaskin was given a special honour for being the oldest known attendee of the school which was located on Spry Street, next to Amen Alley.
She began classes there in 1952 and after finishing schooling in 1956, signed on as a temporary teacher, before joining the staff.