REMEMBRANCES OF THINGS PAST .... FROM ROSE HALL HIGH SCHOOL TO CORENTYNE COMPREHENSIVE
By Ishwar R. Prashad
Two men had a dream. They saw a need and worked to solve it. They were both educators and were consumed with the idea of giving an opportunity to those who would otherwise languish, unfulfilled in their desire to realize their dreams. Education was the key, but it was beyond the reach and resource of most of them.
Rudra Nath and John Muria ... one started Rose Hall High School and the other Port Mourant Comprehensive Institute, and hundreds would benefit. These men would not be thwarted. They met the many obstacles with grace and determination. They persisted amidst detractors, second guessers, malcontents and parents, some of whom found it financially difficult, and others who did not want their children (especially their daughters) to be educated beyond primary school.
There was only one high school in the area, and so many who wanted to continue their education found it almost impossible. Into this void Rudra Nath arrived, and with the help of a few concerned parents, began the process that saw the beginning of Rose Hall High School (Rock Diamond). Long days spent in the hot sun, roaming dusty streets from Black Bush Polder to Fyrish, resulted in some students being recruited. Money was also collected, going home to home. It was tedious and sometimes disheartening, but there was no giving up.
I joined the faculty in January 1960 (having just arrived home from 5 years at Central High School), and was immediately struck by the committment of teachers, but it was the students who struck me with their determination and zeal. Years later, I will recount this story in Canada ... about walking into a classroom, packed to the hilt, side by side with other classes, separated by flimsy cartboard, some of the students older than me and some who had attended primary school with me 5 years earlier, but all so attentive and eager to learn. As I write this, the memories of the faces come flooding back (49 years), and I want to thank all of you for sharing those times with me. I left after a year to accept a position at Berbice High School, so I do not know the details of what transpired, in the next 3 years, except that a new building was built and for a while the school was better housed, but there were problems which would result in a fight for control of the school. This led to displacement and the school being moved to Port Mourant Race Course.
In the meantime, the demands for more high school was growing and into this breach came John Muria. Much like Rudra Nath before him, John Muria started Port Mourant Comprehensive Institute. Again, trudging under the hot sun, along dusty streets, recruited students and collecting money, but with one significant difference .... John Muria was able to convince 40 parents to lend him $100 each to buy an old factory building in Free Yard. This was in September 1962 and with about 30 students, and with James Permaul, Paul Kewolall, Walter Balmakund, Elaine Mallay and later Kesso Persaud and Julip Singh as teachers. I was asked to be the Principal, as John Muria, with his large family could not leave his position at Saint Francis Xavier Roman Catholic School. We had an eclectic group of students who spread over various levels. It was difficult, what with the heat, the noise, the sand and the old moldy building but, teachers and students established an early rapport and we achieved academic success almost immediately at the College of Preceptors Exam. The student population grew to about 140.
In the meantime, Rose Hall High was having problem. It revolved around the new school building amongst other things (I do not know the facts). Rudra Nath was forced to find new accommodations, having lost the power struggle. He, ultimately settled for the less than ideal Port Mourant Race Course. I do not know how they were able to cope with all the distractions, but faculty and students must be commended. It was decided to hold talks with Port Mourant Comprehensive Institute. This resulted in a merger of the two schools in 1964.
The arrangement that was struck resulted in a student body of over 1,000. Rudra Nath would remain as Principal until the end of the school year. I was made Senior Vice Principal and Vernon Asregadoo was made Vice Principal, but he would soon leave to accept another position. Before he left, Rudra Nath, organized a fundraiser because money was needed for a new building and a library. It was a success, and I was given $600, and with Chando Narine, was sent to Georgetown to buy books for the library.
There was some tension between the two groups, but things began to change as the two faculties many of whom were already friends and the students began to integrate. The new school was named Corentyne Comprehensive High School, and it was an immediate success. At the start of the new school year, I was made acting Principal when Rudra Nath left as per the merger agreement. He went on to found National High School.
A year or so later, 1965, Walter Ramdeholl was hired as Principal (I was told that I was too young at 22, for the position). Walter brought a necessary external and pedagogical expertise to the position .... He had a BSc (Econs) and many years of teaching and administrative experience. The next four years (1964-1968), saw tremendous growth. Our cricket and table tennis teams, as well as our volleyball team, were champions, but most notably, in 1967, we got the best results of all the local high schools at the GCE O' Level Exams. These were the halcyon days, when we were young, and the world was our oyster.
I left for Montreal in 1968, but my experiences and my connections to my students and to the many friends amongst the faculty have always and will always be with me. I have recently retired after 35 years (1972-2007) of teaching at various colleges and universities in Canada, but I can say unequivocally, that my years (1960-1968), with you, were the most fulfilling and rewarding. I thank you for sharing those times with me. I am beholden to all of you and hope that you had as much fun as I did. I also want to congratulate all of you, for having the courage to leave your homes and loved ones, to pursue your dreams in these foreign lands.
You make me so proud!