|Members of Thelma Berry’s family are pictured at the renaming ceremony. (A. Miller/BGIS)??|
In the St. David’s area, she was known as the ???modern day Mother Theresa’.?? Her name was synonymous with thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness and charitable work; and yesterday, former janitor at the St. David’s Boy’s School, Thelma Agatha Berry, was immortalised in the naming of the most recently opened public nursery school.
Her memory was celebrated at its official opening, on Monday, and according to Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, Government had merely acceded to the community’s call for this daughter of the soil to be honoured.
Mrs. Berry was born on February 11, 1929, at Cave Hill Tenantry, now known as Banantyne, in Christ Church.?? After living in Lodge Road, also in that parish, she moved to St. David’s around 1955, after her marriage to Edgar Berry.?? She entered the world of work at an early age and was employed at the Ridge and Staple Grove Plantations.?? In 1960, the Headmaster of St. David’s Boys School, Winifred W. Blackman, offered her a job as janitor (caretaker) at the school and it was there that she excelled and often went beyond the call of duty. She passed away in 2009.??
However, Minister Jones pointed out that Mrs. Berry did not set out to be recognised.??
"Even though she came from humble beginnings she still had enough to share, and even if she did not have enough food, she had enough love and she spread that love to all and sundry… Even though she has passed on there is a memory that will linger on…The good that Thelma Berry did is remembered today in this formal opening of the Thelma Berry Nursery School," he noted.??
She became a caregiver to many of the students she encountered and supervised many before and after school, provided for those who did not have lunch and assisted with any bathroom mishaps.?? According to Mr. Jones, this was what was important in life.??
"The technology and tools that now consume us pass into obsolescence quickly.???? Thelma Berry will never be obsolete because young people will come through this door every day there’s school.?? Her name will be called every day they see that sign out there and we will remember her generosity, her kindness, her love… Her actions were spontaneous, bred out of who she was – her personality and her character.?? I would like to name a few more nursery schools after people like her and, of course, that will happen.?? Even the smallest among us should and must be recognised.?? They too must be lifted up for their work and not only so-called great men and women.?? There are villages where men and women work so hard to build this nation.?? They too must be recognised," he said.
Mr. Jones noted that children’s development and intellectual capacities were fostered through their interactions with "caring individuals in a secure, nurturing and stimulating environment".?? He added:?? "…children’s experiences in the first years help to create the foundation not only for future learning, but also the development of appropriate social and emotional skills and values. Research has shown that access to high quality early childhood education and care, forms the foundation for the smooth transfer to primary education and enhances the chances of students successfully completing basic education."??
Plans are currently also being finalised for the refurbishment of the former St. John the Baptist Infant School in St. James to be retrofitted for use as another nursery school and there are proposals in the works to construct six more nursery schools in the near future.
??According to Principal of the nursery, Angela Chaplain, the school would live up to its name.?? "The name Thelma Berry is associated with thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness and charitable work.?? We will endeavour to aspire to live up to these high standards and moral values that were ably displayed by that remarkable lady, Mrs. Thelma Berry.???? Our motto – hand in hand we learn -suggests togetherness and together we will strive for excellence to make Thelma Berry one of the best nursery schools in Barbados… We support the idea that teachers and caregivers should be affectionate, nurturing, enthusiastic and be alert to health and safety.?? Therefore, we as professionals, must be good role models for the pupils," Ms. Chaplain said.
Representing the Berry family at the function was her son, Stephen Berry, who stated that his mother tended to the needs of children of the school for 21 years and touched the lives of more than one generation.??
??"She was a prolific worker and a champion caregiver.?? Some even called her ???the modern day Mother Theresa’.???? Many who attended the St. David’s school in those years would remember that she looked out naturally, and from her heart for those who needed someone.?? They might have been without lunch.?? She noticed and solved that problem with an extra four biscuits and a cup of milk.?? They might have needed someone to look after them until their guardians came to collect them and in some cases that may have been long, long after school – she met that need as well.?? They might have been an urgent or personal need for her to assist them with any mishaps in the bathroom.?? That was also taken care of.?? When the youngster went home that day it was the pants that she washed, dried and ironed.?? She took care of those children as if they were her own – no matter what nationality, colour or denomination.?? No one was left behind and many remembered her for a long time after," Mr. Berry shared.
He thanked government for recognising his mother and trusted that the children and staff of the Nursery and residents of Barbados would emulate her work ethic. "Long after she retired," he remarked, "students would still come to her home for an assortment of peeled mangoes, golden apples and sugar cakes, to mention a few of her delicacies.?? Her home became a day care centre.?? The love and care persons sought was natural for her to give and she extended this to the entire St. David’s citizenship, as widespread as South District, Watts Village, Edey Village, Cox Road, Vauxhall, Sergeant’s Village and Clapham."
As the education ministry expands and improves its early childhood education offerings, a number of abandoned primary schools are being renovated and new buildings are being constructed. Four buildings have been refurbished and are now being used as nursery schools.?? These are All Saint’s Nursery, St. Boniface Nursery, St. Giles’ Nursery and the Thelma Berry Nursery School. These schools, in addition to Erdiston, Government Hill, Eden Lodge, St. Stephen’s Olga Millar and Maria Holder, will bring the number of public nursery schools to 10.??Thelma Berry admitted pupils in September 2011, and has a roll of 76 pupils.