“My Story” Chapter 28

“My Story” – by Randall Butisingh.

(Reminiscences during my life beginning 1914)


It must be known that these classes were not adjacent and this made it difficult for supervision.  A few were in Triumph, the rest were in Mon Repos. The two locations were about quarter of a mile apart.  My office was in the living room in a small house lent by a kind family.  Some of the teachers would gather there for the lunch break.

Very soon after I assumed acting Headship, about nine teachers were sent there to teach, who came from the Courantyne to be admitted to the University of Guyana.  At the beginning things went well and we had good passes in the School Leaving and Common Entrance Examinations.; but later I noticed gross neglect in some of the University students who would spend much time doing their own studies.  During this time efforts were made by the people and the government to acquire a school building.  An old school building at La Bonne Intention which could have accommodated about 150 children was removed and set up by self help in an area of about four acres, with a bottom flat added.  This accommodated about half of the children; the other half remained in the bottom houses.

I tried to hold things together as much as possible.  I mixed the academic with craft work, singing drama and athletics.  Within a short time I was able to hold a fair with exhibits in the school and on the grounds.  I invited the school band of the Annandale Secondary School to perform.  The fair was well attended but it was not without adverse incidents: all the money from the sale of refreshments was stolen, an electric cable was cut and fights ensued.  This was a result of the temper of the times, an aftermath of the racial disturbances which sparked off violence and killings which were politically motivated.  It was a time when crime went unpunished and justice was influenced by the party in power.

Of all the persons that committed murder, only one person, was tried, found guilty and hanged. .He was a young Indian who threw a bomb at a school bus which transported the children of officials to and from school in Georgetown.  This attack was seemingly on the white students who remained in comfort after the ephemeral PPP government was prorogued.

After acting as Head for a while, a permanent head came to fill the position.  Because of the large number of children, two senior assistants were added to the staff.  The Head and I did the administrative and supervisory work, while the senior assistants held classes and supervised certain divisions..  The school was well staffed.  Academically, most of the teachers were qualified, but with the exception of a few, there was a lack of experience, teaching techniques, child psychology and human relationships,.  Ethical standard was not maintained and there were instances of dishonesty, dawdling and neglect, disrespect for authority and immorality/

With the new Head who was trained, my duties became less onerous, but also less challenging and frustrating.    I was second fiddle.  My role was chiefly one of supervision.  I used to visit the bottom houses on my way yo school, talk to the teachers and sometimes conduct singing lessons.

The conditions that obtained for instruction at schools were very unstable.   Teachers came, served for a while, and then left when they obtained a more remunerative position.   Some held on until they had an opportunity to migrate, and some as I mentioned before came because they had the opportunity to be near to the University of Guyana in which they were enrolled.

Education as it is perceived could not flourish in conditions so adverse.   The physical conditions were bad; there was a lack of the basic facilities and there was overcrowding.  The teachers were motivated by selfish interests; there were dawdling, malingering and covert moral lapses. The head teacher was charged with embezzlement and convicted.  I found it frustrating and eventually lost interest..   I held the reins for a while, and then finally retired at the age of fifty-nine.   This made me lose my National Insurance benefits as I did not make the minimum contributions to the scheme.

I felt great relief after my retirement. And although there were bright patches in my teaching career when my innovativeness and originality was brought to bear in my vocation, and also when the opportunity came for fostering lifelong relationships – my wife was a pupil of mine, the system was a cause of much frustration.   I left teaching on two occasions and considered leaving for good.  I envisaged an active outdoor life.   I was never money ambitious.  I spent my time in physical exercises and any manual work that came my way.  I ran, skipped, swam, played cricket and boxed.  I was able to transform my body from a narrow shouldered, youth to a sturdy strong adult.  I practiced vegetarianism and led a sober and temperate life.

My dream was not for scholastic attainments or pecuniary awards.  I would have been happy in a natural setting open to sun, wind and water and feeling one with the cosmos.   But as I look back now, in the winter of my year, – I am eighty-three now at the time of writing, notwithstanding my many failures and mistakes, I feel thankful that my life has been spared and I am thankful for whatever blessing I have received.   My only regret is that I did not thank my benefactors enough for whatever success I have achieved.


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