One of the early forerunners in education, The Alleyne School, will place emphasis next month on observing 95 years since girls first entered its gates, and 65 years as a true co-educational institution.
The school, located at Belleplaine, St. Andrew, will host a lecture/discussion targeted at alumni, students, teachers and others in its community that will highlight the impact of co-education on the school and the society.
Entitled "Where Angels Dared To Tread: Women Who Changed The Course of Education In Barbados", it will take place in the Liberal Arts Auditorium of the Barbados Community College (BCC), next Thursday, March 8, from 7:00 p.m.
Facilitator for the session will be The Right Reverend Monsignor Vincent Blackett, an alumnus of the school and Vicar General of the St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.
Ninety- five years ago the Alleyne School, which, for over 140 years had been an all-male facility, opened its doors to girls of the parish of St. Andrew. The person credited for this was the Headmaster, The Reverend Reginald Grant Barrow, father of this nation’s first Prime Minister and a National Hero, The Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow and Dame Nita Barrow.
However, the person charged with the responsibility of guiding the girls was Ruth O’Neal- Barrow, wife of Reverend Barrow.
This experiment in co-education was, however, brought to a halt by the Established Anglican Church but the seed which was sown remained hidden in the soils of the Alleyne School, sprouting 30 years later when the Church agreed to re-open the doors to girls.
Darnley Cumberbatch, who replaced Mr. H.W.B St. John (The Burly) as Headmaster of the School accepted the challenge of leading a co-educational school and re-opened its doors to 21 girls in 1947.
The responsibility of guiding the 21 young ladies, when the school was officially declared co-educational, fell to "a young courageous woman who dared to enter where angels feared to tread". She was Edla Gill, who, at the time was teaching at the St. Andrew Primary School. She entered the Alleyne School with a dignified appearance and a quiet confidence that endeared her to all and commanded the respect of both male and female students.
Alleyne School, the first co-ed government secondary school on the island, has produced some of the most outstanding persons in the country, many of them women. Perhaps, the most outstanding of these is Dr. Velma Scantlebury, the first black woman to perform a kidney transplant in the world.
The March 8 lecture at the BCC has been so titled to recognise this legacy and, more importantly, to show appreciation for the school’s two early female teachers – Ruth O’Neal-Barrow and Miss Gill and their contribution to education here in Barbados.
A service of thanksgiving at the St. James Parish Church, the following Sunday, March 11, from 9:00 a.m., will also serve to commemorate The Alleyne School’s legacy in education.