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Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)
TITLE: EDUCATION FOR LIFE
By Phyllis Inniss
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I had got to the school early, and saw four or five students already there with their parents. When the notice about the opening of this new secondary school was passed on to the primary schools in the area in which we lived, our parents had signed us up for entry. It was the first private secondary school in the district of San Juan and this meant that parents didn’t have to worry about their children having to travel to Port of Spain, the capital city, every day. The building was old and really belonged to a Friendly Society that was popular in those days before the advent of Credit Unions, but it served its purpose until the population of the school outgrew its size. Some students knew each other beforehand. One of the girls I knew was very timid and kept close to me all through the session .
I was excited and a little nervous at the same time. I couldn’t believe that I was really going to start secondary schooling. A feeling of unreality as a dream experienced on the stage of life captured my senses and I wasn’t sure I was taking part in the whole scenario being played out around me. Some of the girls were smiling to hide their nervousness and the boys were standing around shifting from one foot to the other. The parents were talking to the two teachers and we were keeping a respectful distance away
When the parents had left, we were told to sit. The girls sat on the right and the boys on the left. We were given a welcoming speech by the two gentlemen, who introduced themselves to us. I felt a little more at ease by this time. I had felt a little intimidated by all this newness, not knowing what to expect. I had to make an effort to pay attention to what Mr. Byam, who spoke first, was saying. He flashed his beautiful smile, perhaps to put us at ease. My mind was in such a whirl that at the end all I could remember him saying was that we were getting an education for life.
.The two adults, our future teachers, were as different in their physical appearance as they were in their demeanour. Mr. Wilson was tall and slim with a small head and a good-looking face, his hair cut close to his head, moustache trimmed very low. His manner was that of a priest, even before we knew he could recite long Latin passages.. Mr. Byam, on the other hand, was fairly tall, but broader in body, with broad features and a broad smile, very white teeth gleaming, which could turn into a ferocious rage when angered, moustache thick and swirling. He had quite a sense of humour and laughed boisterously. Mr. Wilson would smile demurely at a given joke and probably give a quiet little chuckle when he was pleased about something.
A timetable was given and I was thrilled to see we would be doing Latin, French and Spanish, and Algebra and Geometry and Trigonometry for the first time. History, English Language and Literature, and Scripture did not fill me with awe as those subjects mentioned above. I realized a whole new world was opening up for me. A little apprehension set in. Could I match up to this new expectation? Could I realize the dream that my mother had for me in making this sacrifice to send me to this school where she had to pay for my tuition. I looked at the new books passed to us and wondered how it would feel to possess so much knowledge and I experienced a joy and wonder and pleasure that I always get from books. Mr. Byam’s words came back to me. From this new experience I would be getting an education for life. I didn’t think then of thanking God for this blessed opportunity He was giving me. Later on in life, I looked back with appreciation on all that He had done and was still doing for me.