It was a low-down dirty shame – the way that the central government abandoned the Holy Trinity School in Barbuda. In the annals of callous disregard, it is difficult to find parallels to this administration’s slackness in providing a decent education, in a conducive setting, to the next generation of Barbudans. Actually, we dare anyone to cite a circumstance in our history where an administration was so beholden to power and money, that it neglected the repair of a school, while at the same time moving hell, high water and habitats, indeed, a whole forest, to build an airport for millionaires and billionaires. Only during the days of slavery can anyone find an administration more wanton in its efforts to keep black people in ignorance. Mary Hart Gilbert and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, the visionary founders of the first school for black people at Bethesda in 1813, must be turning in their graves.
It was the Anglicans who first brought education to the children of Barbuda when they founded the Holy Trinity School which bears the same name as the church there in 1923. The church ran the school until 1950 when the government of Antigua and Barbuda took over its running. This was similar to the circumstances of the Antigua Grammar School, which was founded and run by Archdeacon Samuel Branch of the Anglican Church in 1884, until the government took over in the early 1970’s. Clearly, the Anglicans circa the good Archdeacon’s period, placed a premium on educating black people. In fact, one of the church’s greatest ministers, Father Alfred Hatch-Syrett, not only served as the priest at the Holy Trinity Church, but he was also the headmaster of the Holy Trinity School from 1944 to 1952. He also served as a teacher and headmaster at the Antigua Grammar School. He too would be turning in his sainted grave at the woeful neglect of the Holy Trinity School.
We submit that the abominable treatment meted out to the students of Barbuda’s Holy Trinity School, is a metaphor for the bad treatment meted out to Barbudans in nearly every sphere of the post-Hurricane Irma mess. Just ask the Chinese ambassador to our fair State, Mr. Sun Ang, who is hardly impressed at the post-Irma recovery effort. He has pledged to visit Barbuda. Look folks, the Barbudan people had already gone through the apocalypse. They were taken from their homeland because Hurricane Jose was threatening. The best that we could do was to provide them with as much of a semblance of normalcy as possible. That would mean repairing the Holy Trinity School, a symbol of continuity and stability, as a matter of urgency. But nay, there was dilly-dallying and much talk, but little else. Like the children of Israel, they had to read and write and sing the Lord’s song in a strange land . . . where they wept, when they remembered Codrington.
Then, in the great repatriation, instead of putting the students back in the Holy Trinity buildings – the familiar setting that would have added to their sense of safety and security, they were housed in all sorts of make-shift structures fashioned from cheap plywood. It is a wonder that they were able to learn anything.
I attended the Holy Trinity School during the late sixties and early seventies, and found it to be a most delightful place at the edge of Codrington, just east of Low Bay and the wharf. It was surrounded by Duck Pond and the warden’s residence to the east, the dispensary and the cotton ginnery to the south, and the headmaster’s residence and Mr. Knight’s grocery store to the north. At that time, the late Mr. Joseph Hampson was the headmaster, followed by Dame Eusalyn Lewis, who was later transferred to head the Antigua Grammar School. Clearly, the Ministry of Education back then thought highly of the Holy Trinity School or they would not have sent two of their greatest headmasters to administer it. And of course, those distinguished headmasters were following in the grand tradition of the aforementioned Father Hatch-Syrett.
Who can forget Headmaster Hewlett DeFreitas, Teacher Maxie Thomas, Mr. Ramadhin Bailey, Teacher Mary Quinn, Teacher Morel Thomas and Teacher Italis? Who can forget the exciting Sports Day high-jump duels between Milton and Cedric Beazer? Who can forget the equestrian prowess of Miller on his horses? Or the moonlight fetes on the grand lawn of the school? Yes, the Holy Trinity School was an enduring symbol of great scholarship, great community fellowship, and a sense of belonging. Like the famed Rock of Gibraltar, the Holy Trinity School was not to be moved! Notwithstanding the battering from Hurricane Irma, she was to be repaired as a matter of urgency. This was as important to the psyche of the people of Barbuda as was the effort to rebuild the Freedom Tower in New York after the destruction of the twin towers. Symbols are important!
Sadly, there were some who were of another mind on the need to rebuild the Holy Trinity School. This was evidenced by the fact that absolutely nothing was done to the school for two long years. When I visited Barbuda in March of last year, I cried at the woeful state of disrepair into which the school had fallen. I could not believe it! There were dogs and donkeys living in the classrooms, and there was human and animal excrement everywhere. Door and windows were off their hinges; desks and chairs were strewn about; and weeds and bush had begun to take over the place. It stunk! Up to high heaven! Actually, it was a toss-up as to whether the Hannah Thomas Hospital was in worse shape than the Holy Trinity School. Sigh! Two of the fundamentals of a society – healthcare and education, were not being treated as a priority by this administration.
To its credit, the Barbuda Council decided that it could no longer abide the feeble excuses and the unconscionable delay in restoring the historic Holy Trinity School to her former glory. So they acted. The community came together in a big way, doing for themselves that which others charged with the responsibility, neglected to do. Today, the venerable Holy Trinity School is back. Like the famed Phoenix, she has risen from the ruins, and outstanding past students such as Sir Mc Chesney George, Sir Hilbourne Frank and Sir Claude-Earl Francis, can rest easy. Remember folks, the Phoenix is a symbol of strength and rebirth; the analogy is apropos. We here at NEWSCO say hats off to MP Trevor Walker and the Barbuda Council for succeeding where others failed to even try. Kudos to Sandals Resorts for stepping-in early with a handsome donation to the effort. All the other corporate good citizens and NGO’s that pitched in, and whose names are not mentioned, are also deserving of high commendation. And of course, eternal thanks to “Thou Three in One, and One in Three,” the triune God, the blessed Holy Trinity, for whom the school is named, and without whose assistance, none of this would have been possible.