St. Leonard???s Girls??? Secondary ??? A Legacy Worth Preserving!

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A legacy worthy of preservation is how the St. Leonard???s Girls??? Secondary School, which closed its doors to education in 1997, has been described by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Senator Harry Husbands.

The significant contribution of the now defunct all girls??? school to the development of Barbados was yesterday recognised with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the site at Richmond Gap, St. Michael, where that school was established and which now houses the St. Leonard???s Boys??? Secondary School.

Addressing the official ceremony, Senator Harry Husbands acknowledged that the school, which had served with distinction as an institution for 45 years, was ???a legacy that served as a reminder that equal secondary education for all is an inspiration for achievement???.

As he commended the St. Leonard???s Girls??? Legacy Foundation for highlighting and celebrating this legacy, he recalled a time in Barbados when the school-leaving age was 14 years if a family did not have the means to allow their child/ward to access further education.

???Prior to the 1950???s, further education after age 14 required the payment of fees. The only other way a family could hope to realise the dreams of an intelligent child of that age was to apply for a scholarship but the lower-income working class masses did not generally benefit from such opportunities.

???Therefore, the opening of the St. Leonard???s Girls??? School on September 15, 1952 meant that this institution was uniquely poised to make an outstanding contribution to the Barbadian society??????

He pointed out that the school was opened to provide free secondary education similar to the existing Grammar Schools for the masses, inclusive of preparation for the ???O??? Level London G.C.E. Examinations. Noting that it could be deemed ???a forerunner for free public secondary education for girls from lower-income homes in Barbados???, Mr. Husbands said prior to this, girls had to resort to doing fieldwork, needlework and other craft skills to earn a living after exiting school.

???It was for girls only ??? a single-sex school ??? pioneering a vision for access to equal secondary education for post-primary girls in Barbados, thereby reducing the gender bias that previously existed,??? added the Parliamentary Secretary.

He said, too, that the provision of practical courses in Domestic Science, Book Binding, Woodwork and Metalwork, meant that the school assisted in setting the stage for the thrust in technical-vocational education in Barbados.

Alluding to the ???Skills for the Future??? programme, currently being implemented by Government in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank, Senator Husbands quipped: ???For those of you who are unaware, the thrust was really conceptualised when a comprehensive educational programme inclusive of skills was formalised at St. Leonard???s Girls??? in 1952.???

St. Leonard???s Girls??? was further praised as a noble institution that provided a legacy of advanced education that paved the way for students??? contribution in both private and professional employment. And, its legacy was said to have remained visible in the exemplary citizenry and achievements of numerous females across the island.

Some of the outstanding alumni to whom Senator Husbands alluded were the President of the National Organisation of Women, Marilyn Rice-Bowen; Director of Broadcast Services at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, Rosemary Alleyne; Deputy Chief Education Officer, Karen Best; Director of the National Task Force on Crime Prevention, Cheryl Willoughby; former Principal of the St. Leonard???s Girls??? School, Wilma Clarke; Director of the National Public Library, Annette Smith and Reverend Dr. Sonia Hinds, one of the first women in the Caribbean to serve as a priest in the Anglican Church in Barbados and now serving in Canada.

The St. Leonard???s Girls??? Legacy Foundation Inc., which was responsible for the plaque, was commended by Senator Husbands for preserving the historical contribution of the school for the benefit of descendants of the St. Leonard???s Girls??? and the wider community.

Established on March 17, 2011 as a non-profit organisation, the Foundation???s major aim is to collect, secure and display items and information that collectively describe the history of the St. Leonard???s Girls??? School.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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