The Young Colonials: A Social History of Education in Trinidad and Tobago, 1834-1939

By Carl C. Campbell | Go to book overview

[ 1 ]
Foundations of Education in the Nineteenth Century

The First Primary Schools 1834-1869

Slavery and the formal education of slaves were considered incompatible by the slave owners of Trinidad. As in all the British West Indian islands, the abolition of slavery in 1834, though not complete, afforded the first opportunity for a mass provision of day schools for black and coloured children. The main impulse to develop such a programme came from England, from the swell of British philanthropy, Protestant missionary zeal, and from a conscience-aroused British government. Between 1835 and 1845 an annual subsidy of £30,000, reduced gradually after 1841, was made available to build schoolhouses and to pay teachers' salaries in the British Caribbean.1 It is not possible to calculate how much of this British subsidy reached Trinidad; the island was not in a good position to benefit maximally from the subsidy because only a handful of Protestant missionaries were at work there.

The Church of England also was badly understaffed; the vast majority of the population belonged to the Roman Catholic Church which had only a few priests. The British government was prejudiced against the Roman Catholic Church, and did not wish to give it funds to build and operate denominational schools. The two initial problems in Trinidad, therefore, were that there were too few Protestant missionaries and clergymen to cooperate with the British government and that Roman Catholic priests were not regarded as suitable recipients of the subsidy.2 Neither of these problems existed in Jamaica or Barbados; they were limited to the Roman Catholic dominated islands of the eastern Caribbean.

From the time of emancipation, the development of education in Trinidad was bedevilled by an issue which did not arise in Barbados or Jamaica in the same form; this issue was whether public schools, primary or secondary, should be denominational and church controlled, or nondenominational (or even secular)

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