Throughout the length and breath of Jamaica, from the plains to the mountain peaks within the rural districts as well as the towns and cities beams the Universities of Infants, the Basic School. A place where young minds are trained and schooled in Mannerism, Hygiene, Memory Gems, Penmanship, Arithmetic, English, Poetry, Religion, Arts & Craft and the list goes on.
Today as adults many of us can very well recall the memory gems taught to us back then that are indelible to our minds, one of which is, “Labour for learning before you grow old, for learning is better than silver or gold, silver and gold will vanish away but a good education will never decay.” It is from these Basic Schools, the work force, scholars and today’s leaders of society have emerged and so the intent here is to praise and honor those that have created from infancy the positive attitudes and the quest for success through hard work and dedication, we as developed human beings exhibits in later years.
Women seemingly played a vital role in the establishment of these learning institutions and perhaps a valid proof in the maxim that the woman is the “Cradle of civilization, the mother of all things.” Often founded from the combined necessities for self-employment along with the love of children and a greater urge to instill and to educate, a Basic School will be set up either within the teacher’s own home or yard or within church buildings. Notable the Church since emancipation has played an important role not only in educating the young minds but also at the high school levels where many are operated and owned or affiliated with the church.
Those Basic Schools that are held within the Teacher’s home or yard are often times not well structured buildings and at times even beneath the shade of a tree classes are conducted. The yard are buildings does not posses the necessities standardized by the Ministry of Education to be used as a school but for the Peoples’ of these communities, the poor and neglected of politicians and governmental officials, grants and subsidies, this is all they have and for them it is the means by which early childhood education can be attained.
The benches are normally long and made of wood and can seat as many as six children at a time leaving enough space on which to place one’s exercise book or slate to write or draw. A Blackboard is usually affixed to the front of a class and students are drilled into learning the letters of the Alphabet, the Seasons of the Year among many other things. This place of learning is generally neatly kept and provides an atmosphere of love and close affinity towards brotherhood of fellow citizens. Students are taught to share and to play and to be at peace with each other. Suffice to say it is within these confines that the true ideals and doctrines of Socialism and Christianity are utilized and practiced.
Nearly all Basic Schools are not funded by the Government and a small fee is usually charged for attendance on a weekly basics. Nonetheless, if a parent could not afford the fee, that child or children were always welcome to attend classes, the same is true for those without lunch. The monies collected by the teachers should have become a salary for their own personal use but often times it is that which is used to provide for her students, be it teaching materials such as chalk, crayons, paints and paint brushes, arts & craft papers, glues, cardboards or food provisions for those in need of lunch. These noble care givers and educators understood the economics of their communities but more so they understood the need for education as an advancement to cure the social disease of poverty and to relieve the pain and suffering of illiteracy and so today the medicines of true discipline and hard work which they have influence and developed is a proven natural source of productivity within our lives.
To All Basic School Teachers I salute you with the strength and vigor of my body so that you will continue your duty assigned to you by the consciousness of your thoughts and the humanities of your wills in the advancement of the poor and neglected people on Jamaican soil.
NB. Dedicated to Teacher Alma of Mc Vickers Lane, Spanish Town whom has spent the better part of her life to help and teach many including my son, Howie, in his long walk to educational glory.