Preserving history through education
It is no secret that Jamaica possesses some of the oldest educational institutions in the Caribbean with the country’s rich history being embedded in the infrastructure of some of our nation’s illustrious schools.
Across the length and breadth of the island, from Titchfield High School in Portland to Manning’s School in Westmoreland, our nation’s institutions are a treasure chest of knowledge and shared experiences of our people. These historic sites range from former houses to forts and military barracks.
However, during my school visits I have observed a recurring problem plaguing our nation’s institutions; notably crumbling facilities with rusting rebars, peeling paint and cracked cement. Given the immense history associated with our schools, it is unfortunate to see the state of such infrastructure.
Therefore, we must take advantage of our rich history in order to stymie the physical degradation of time or termites. My proposal is for the implementation of the School Historical Renewal Initiative (SHRI)with the three pillars of the programme being renovate, manage and employ.
With this programme, older institutions around the island would receive government funds to renovate and preserve historical facilities, with the assistance of the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT).
After this process is completed, schools’ administrations would be allowed to manage their respective facilities with assistance from local stakeholders. Tourists would be allowed to view these sites as a part of a larger push to integrate our schools in the tourist market.
Under the final pillar of the programme, interested students from surrounding communities would be allowed to earn as tour guides, craft producers or in other capacities. This would be a practical approach to teaching students, especially those who are pursuing tourism as a CAPE subject.
A colleague of mine, who recently did the subject in this year’s examinations, expressed that given the opportunity, she would love the chance to apply what she learned in a real-world setting. She mentioned that a part of the syllabus incorporated formulating a sustainable tourism plan as well as creating a business plan of her own.
Thus, incorporating students into the SHRI would provide them with the opportunity to earn income as tour guides. The advantages of this programme extend to schools, as they would be able to capitalise on additional resources that would be used to maintain facilities.
Additionally, the programme would help to alleviate some of the burden on the government to preserve the infrastructure of some of our older schools. Moreover, there is no question on the sustainability of the SHRI as with the proper integration of our schools into our national tourism product, there would be a natural market for visitors who want to explore Jamaica’s educational history.
Adopting the SHRI would be a significant measure to get students interested in preserving history, as well as go a long way in ensuring that our students receive a wholesome and practical education.
David Salmon is the outgoing deputy head boy of Wolmer’s Boys’ School and co-founder of the New Jamaica Foundation, a think tank and outreach organisation. To send feedback, he may be contacted at email@example.com.