Memories of school days in Jamaica

Outside Cacoon School with Mrs Carole Grant, the Principal

I’m looking at a battered school register from 1957 that Carole Grant, the Principal of Cacoon All-Age School in Hanover has just pulled from the bottom drawer of a metal filing cabinet.

And there I am. In neat, clear handwriting is my name and date of birth, next to my brother Cosway. We came to school here in 1957 when – like so many of my generation did – we went to live with my granny after my mother left to join my father in England.

It was another three years before I left to join them, and during that time my world centred around the the tiny wooden classroom at Cacoon where I passed my JLE in 1958.

The school has changed beyond recognition. In 1957 it was one large open plan room with all ages in the same room. Today it is a two-storey concrete building with individual classrooms for each grade. At the entrance there is a lady – Miss Lena Grant, the gate-keeper – who asked us to sign the visitors’ register. It’s so important to keep records! I had linked up with Carole through Liz Milman, a former colleague at Handsworth College, who had been in Jamaica forging links between Uplands School in Wolverhampton and a school in Hanover. It was only when we met up at The Beach House, when she was leaving back to England, that I discovered that the school in Hanover she had linked up with was Cacoon – my old school.

So, through Liz I contacted Carole, and that’s how I came to be looking at my name in a register from 1957.

Carole welcomed myself and my husband Derek into her office and invited each teacher in turn down to her office so we could meet them: Mrs. Marlene Scarlett, Mrs. Maulene Morris, Miss Peta-gay Craigie, Mrs. Nervalene Crooks, Mrs. Paulin Bolt, Mrs Karen Dawes, Mrs. Natassia Lewis and Mrs Marcia Parr-Smith. Carole then took us on a tour of each classroom and introduced us to the children. In Grade 2 the children spontaneously offered to sing and did a brilliant rendition. This was so very wonderful and emotional for me.

I had brought a set each of the Rocky Basic Readers and the Heritage Readers to give to the school library which Carole and the other teachers received enthusiastically. Derek took a photo of me giving the books to Mrs. Nervalene Crooks, who is married to a relative from the Crooks clan.

I came away feeling inspired. Carole and her staff are battling incredible odds in terms of their lack of equipment and resources but still remaining positive and introducing innovative, community-based solutions.

Carole told me about the revision camp she and the other teachers run for two consecutive weekends before the GSAT (Grade 6 Achievement Test) that takes students into High School. The students live, eat and work at the school with no distractions from Friday night through to Sunday evening, including a trip to church.

With this level of commitment to build on, I can only hope that the link with Uplands School, Wolverhampton will bring some resources and support for Carole and her team. I’m certainly going to be supporting this.

As I was leaving, on my way to the car in the school playground, I heard a voice saying quietly “Aunty Blossom, Aunty Blossom”. It was my cousin Jevan, who attends the school, and who was obviously very pleased and surprised to see me.

There’s just so much talent and potential up there in the hills behind Lucea, just as there is all over Jamaica, waiting to be unleashed on the world. How can we make it happen?

At Cacoon School, handing over a set of Handprint books to Mrs Nervalene Crooks

4 thoughts on “Memories of school days in Jamaica

  1. How wonderful, thank you for sharing this great experience. Your Rocky books will on in your old school.

  2. Jean on said:

    What a lovely blog. Very emotional as well Merrise. Changes have been made for sure over the years but I am sure you saw so much more which could be done. Education is good for the soul. It opens the windows to life. Children of Jamaica need to open the windows WIDE!
    The books will be well appreciated I am sure.

  3. admin on said:

    Thanks so much for your support!

  4. Shelley on said:

    This brought goose pimples to my arms. Such a beautiful post Mum. xxx