The church’s influence-History of education in the Bahamas Part II

We all know that the church had a monumental impact on society, especially in the earlier centuries. It helped shaped societal customs and social norms, including ideology surrounding slavery, black people, women, etc. In fact, it is well-known that the church not only aided in starting slavery but also in maintaining it. But did you know that the church was an integral part of the abolishment of slavery as well?

Yup! Lookup a group called the Quakers.

In other words, the Church encompasses both well-intentioned good people as well as evil people and sadly, because they both exist within Christianity (or any religion for that matter), it’s hard to separate the evil from the good ones.

In the Bahamas, the idea of separating the two is even more difficult because even though some of the ideologies that the church taught or propagated were negative, and quite frankly, twisted, there are so many visibly tangible contributions of the Church.

One of those greatest contributions to the Bahamas would have had to be in education because, without the persistence of certain individuals within the church, the majority of us would not have the access to education as we do today. Additionally, almost all the major private schools are run by a specific denomination. Let’s take a look.

The Early Missionaries’ need to educate

Education in the Bahamas was always pushed by the Church. In fact, the very first attempt to educate the Bahamian

By Williams, John – https://fleuron.lib.cam.ac.uk/static/ornament_images/073190040000020_1.pngRecord: https://fleuron.lib.cam.ac.uk/ornament/073190040000020_1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59548795

masses was through a religious group called The Society for Propagation of the Gospel in 1739. They were an Anglican missionary group that was funded by the Church of England.

 

 

They opened and operated a school called the ‘Free School’ which was located in modern-day Fox hill and catered to poor white boys (and, very rarely, a black boy). However, teachers were complaining that they were not getting paid. So to combat this, the 1746 education act made it mandatory for all men, no matter the race, between the ages of 16 and 60, to pay a tax of 1 shilling and 6 pence (which is equivalent to 50 cents) in order to compensate the teachers. Nonetheless, this taxation was short-lived and sadly, the school had to be discontinued.

Eventually, there were also groups of missionaries, who considered themselves non-conformists, that started visiting the Bahamas. They saw the need to educate black children but they were faced with two challenges:

  1. during this time, it was forbidden to teach a slave.
  2. They were only able to teach freed colored men during Sunday school.

This meant that instructional time was restricted to maybe 2 hours per week. Nonetheless, this did not deter them from trying.

These sub-missionary groups were not the only contributors. Entire denominations had helped shaped Bahamian education into what is now known today. However, their contributions can be considered controversial as many of them only catered to a certain aspect of Bahamian society for decades. These denominations include Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, and Roman Catholics.

The Anglican Archdiocese

The Anglican church’s presence can be dated all the way back to 1670. One of the first schools that was established

First Students at Saint Anne’s School

was the Free School (led by the SPG) in 1739. They were then placed in control of the Central school, the first public school of the Bahamas, under the 1821 Education Act. Since then, the Anglican Central Education Authority was established having 4 private schools under its belt:

  1. St John’s College, New Providence, Bahamas: this is the second high school to accept black students and it was established in 1947. It had 7 teachers and 135 students when it first opened.
  2. St Anne College, New Providence, Bahamas: established in 1955 because of a need for a school in the Fox Hill area. The parish hall was turned into 3 classrooms and the number of students that attended school during its first year was 26 with 6 teachers. Eventually, because of an influx of students, classes had to be held in the Churchyard underneath sapodilla and almond trees.
  3. Bishop Michael Eldon School, Freeport, Grand Bahama: it was first named Freeport Highschool but undergone a slight name change to Freeport Anglican Highschool right when it opened in 1965. In 1991, the Discovery Primary School was added to the Freeport Anglican Highschool’s campus and eventually, the name was changed again to Bishop Michael Eldon School.
  4. St Andrews Anglican School, Georgetown, Exuma: it was first established as a preschool in 1983. The Primary department was not established until 1995 and then the middle school followed in 2002.

The Methodist

Many people tend to disregard the fact that there were free black loyalists who relocated to the Bahamas because it is always assumed that anyone who was black was automatically considered a slave. Well, a freed black man, Joseph Paul, was one of the black loyalists who came to the Bahamas and was credited with being the first black man to introduce Methodism in not only black communities but in the entire Bahamas in 1786.

Wesleyan chapel and mission premises in the eastern district of new providence Bahamas-1849

Additionally, he helped establish a school for blacks and free people of color that could have doubled as a way to teach Methodist philosophies as well. In this school, called The Associates School, he had 5 students in total. However, because of some external trouble, Paul was unable to continue it and he had moved to the Anglican faith.

The Methodist community did not get a new minister until 1800, who happened to a white Barbadian. This caused a change in the way the Methodist church contributed towards education.

By 1834, the Methodists had created day schools in Eleuthera that were primarily for white children and liberated Africans. Occasionally, the child of a slave may have been allowed to attend one of these days’ schools upon their master’s request.

Since then, there have been two schools that are listed underneath the Methodist church:

  1. Queen’s College, New Providence, Bahamas: the oldest private school in the Bahamas was established in 1890 but it was largely segregated. It is interesting to note that even though Bahamian white QC parents expressed strong desires to separate their children from other races while they were in school, there were a few colored children who were allowed in the mix, including Eugene Dupuch (the owner of the tribune/guardian). In 1948, Mr. Dupuch made a shocking speech at the Royal Victoria Hall stating that the white parents needed to start looking at children with different skin complexions with ‘Christian eyes.’ From then on, it is said that a lot of those outraged white parents moved on to create a white-only school (St Andrews). Eventually, there were strategies put in place by the Methodist church to make QC more representative of the majority population which forced integration.
  2. St Michael s Preschool, New Providence, Bahamas: was established in 1982 with the goal of educating kids between 3 & 4 in a safe learning environment.

The Baptist

The Baptists, along with the Methodists, are said to be two of the most contributing denominations towards

Bethel Baptist Church

educating the black masses. The baptist faith can be traced back to 1790 with the building of Bethel Baptist Church and its founders Prince Williams and Sharper Morris (who were free black men).

This faith had become so influential, that they have built tertiary level institutions.

Schools that are listed under the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention includes:

  1. The Bahamas Baptist Community College (BCC), New Providence, Bahamas: This is the largest private tertiary institution and the second largest tertiary institution in the Bahamas. It was established in 1995 by Charles W. Saunders to offer certificates, Associates and Bachelor degrees in humanities, business and administrative studies, natural sciences and social sciences as well as college prep courses.
  2. Jordan Prince William Baptist School
  3. Charles W. Saunders Baptist School

The Catholics

The presence of the Catholic faith here in the Bahamas can be traced to 1887 when Rev. Charles George O’Keeffe was appointed as priest in the Bahamas.

Some of the Schools that are listed under the Catholic Board of Education includes:

  1. Sacred Heart Schools, New Providence, Bahamas: This school was established in 1889 by 2 individuals within The Sisters of Charity; Irene Gonzaga Batell, Maria Dodge. It started out as a summer sewing class which then evolved into an everyday school.
  2. Bahamian Catholic School Crest

    Xavier Academy/ Xavier Academy, New Providence, Bahamas: this is said to be the second oldest school and the very first Catholic school established in the Bahamas as it was established in 1890. But, according to the Catholic Board of Education’s website, there were three different Xavier’s: one was St Francis Xavier School (opened 1889 and closed 1979 to merge with St Josephs); St Francis Xavier Academy/Xavier Academy (opened 1890 but in 1955 was morphed into Xavier College); and Xavier College/Xavier Lower School (1955- present). Due to this insight, it would mean that, technically St Francis and St Joseph is the oldest school in the Bahamas (instead of Queen’s College) since it was merged with another school. I think it’s definitely something to inquire about. Another thing to note about this school is that it was also a segregated school for girls when it first opened and continued until 1967.

  3. St Augustine’s College (SAC), New Providence, Bahamas: It is said that this was the first secondary school that catered to the black majority. Its doors were opened in 1947 to 35 male students and 4 teachers. The classes lasted all day until 8 p.m so that students were able to study and it was the first Bahamian boarding school (but was discontinued in the 1970’s). In 1967, S.A.C (the all-boys school) merged with Xavier s School (the all-girls school) to become a co-ed high school but they still were taught in separate classrooms.
  4. St Thomas Moore, New Providence, Bahamas: opened in 1953 by The Sisters of Charity of New York

    First four faculty members at Saint Augustine’s College

    organization. They were sent to the Bahamas to do missionary work and they helped build several schools including Xavier s and Sacred Heart. When the school first opened, there were 3 Sisters of Charity posted at the school with 4 other teachers.

  5. St Cecilia, New Providence, Bahamas: opened in 1956 by Fr. Author Chapman with the help of the Sisters of Charity and Sisters of St Josephs of Canada organizations.
  6. Aquinas College, New Providence, Bahamas: opened in 1957 with the aid of five sisters from the Dominican Sisters organization who forwent business education at the school. They were also instrumental in creating a teacher training program for Bahamian nuns. Sadly both the business program and teacher training college had been discontinued 10 years afterward.
  7. St Francis de Sales School, Marsh Harbour, Abaco: established in 1964 by the Sacred Hearts Fathers, with the aid of the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell and was exclusively a primary school located in New Providence. They didn’t move to Abaco until 1996 with the implementation of a high school.
  8. St Francis and Joseph School, New Providence, Bahamas: opened in 1979 by merging two previous schools, St Francis Xavier and St Josephs school (the fourth Catholic school that was opened in the Bahamas). Also, an interesting tidbit of information: St Francis Xavier s had implemented a high school in 1952 but that high school was discontinued to establish Aquinas College.
  9. Every Child Counts, Marsh Harbour, Abaco: established in 1997 out of a need to educate children with developmental delays and learning disabilities.
  10. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Freeport Grand Bahama, Bahamas: established in 1960 with 20 students and 3 teachers. Rev. Bishop Paul Leonard Hagardy, Wallace Groves and the Grand Bahama Port Authority all aided in the construction of this school. In 2014, it then merged with Grand Bahama catholic school (created in 1966), who was the only school to offer academic and vocational certification to high school students on Grand Bahama.
  11. Our Lady of the Souls, New Providence, Bahamas: this school was established in 1926 by Sr. Carmita Maria and Sr. Mary Rosella in Grants town

There were 10 other schools that the Catholic had created but those schools were either closed or merged with another school after a few years. However, due to this extensive list, it can be well seen that the Catholics really vested time and money into education.

Now that you know the church’s contribution towards education, was their contribution substantial enough to ensure that the black Bahamian populace became equipped members of society? In other words, is it enough that these churches just erected schools for the segregated? Have they made any other substantial contribution to our society? I’d love to know your thoughts on these questions in the comment section below.

Stay tuned for part III of this series where I will talk about the effects of slavery on our educational system.

 

16 thoughts on “The church’s influence-History of education in the Bahamas Part II”

Mahasin1

Very informative. I never knew that there were slaves in the Bahamas. It’s sad to say that the same individuals who were trying to teach certain customs and beliefs were the same people who were responsible for not letting certain groups learn. I think you’re doing a very good job at bringing awareness to this situation. I know it’s 2019 but are some of these practices still being implemented today?

    Tyranique Thurston

    Hi Mahasin! yes, slavery did exist in the Bahamas. It was not as tumultuous and life-threatening as it was in the rest of the Caribbean and in the Americas mainly because the crops that are produced through slavery were not as lucrative (although this is very much in debate between Bahamian historians) but it existed.

    Thank you for taking the time to read the article and I’m glad you got some insight from it.

Pentrental

Definitely the church has had a monumental impact on society, both good and bad. On one hand it helping bring civilization to otherwise heathen areas while on the other hand prompted things like the crusades. And it is pretty much universally known the troubles the Catholic church has had in recent years. I’m glad to hear of the education the church brought to the Bahamas as this is one of the good stories. Given the challenges that they faced I feel that the churches did a pretty well in helping the black Bahamian populace, though to say it was substantial is debatable. You’ve asked some great questions here, well done!

    Tyranique Thurston

    Thank you Pentrenatal. I’ve tried to ensure that I generate actual conversations surrounding the church and it’s heavy influence, especially here in the Bahamas, which is considered a ‘Christian nation.’

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read the article.

Douglas

It really is amazing how the world has changed over the years.  From slaves to no slaves it has been an interesting history of all countries and their battles with free men and non free men.  I never knew that slaves were not just in the USA although I didn’t really think about it.  I mean really why wouldn’t there be since the caribbean has so many islands and places that would be able to produce goods at almost anytime of the year.  Do you know if the church programs that only could be taught for a couple hours on sundays still are in existence?  Meaning all of the buildings.  Such some beautiful pictures and would be cool to check them out sometime and learn more about the history there.  Thank you for all the great info.

Douglas

    Tyranique Thurston

    Hi Douglas! Yes, slavery existed in most of the Caribbean islands including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and the like. However, although this point is debatable, slavery in the Bahamas was not as intense as it was in the other Caribbean islands and the Americas because we simply could not produce the prize-winning crops such as tobacco and sugar cane as you guys did (which was sort of a blessing). 

    I do blame the American educational system on how it’s very closed syllabus regarding its history, which is probably why you were unaware of slavery existing elsewhere. So don’t feel bad about that. I’m just happy that you got to learn something from it :).

    I’m actually not sure if those buildings are still standing. That is something to look into. I know that there are a few churches that still exist today such as Bethel Baptist Church and most of the Anglican and Catholic churches but in terms of where the missionaries actually taught freed black men? That’s something to inquire. 

Lenka

This is such a comprehensive article about the history of education and church’s influence on Bahamas. When I had history as a subject at school, we weren’t thought anything about this part of the world. I live in Europe and church has had a great impact on the society and culture here but didn’t know there was such a big history in Bahamas as well. Thank you for taking so much effort to educate on this topic.

    Tyranique Thurston

    That is so weird that you guys weren’t taught about anything in the Caribbean because most countries in Europe had colonized a lot of the islands in the Caribbean and you aren’t the first person to say this to me.

    It’s also part of the reason why the abolishment of slavery took so long to be accomplished because those in Europe, who were profiting from the results of slave labor, didn’t know about anything that was actually going on in the Americas, including the brutal mistreatment and the degradation of human lives.  

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and I’m so happy that you were able to learn from it!

      Lenka

      I’m sorry my ancestors caused or supported such horrible things as slavery. I’m actually from Eastern Europe and to be honest, we weren’t even thought much about the America that time when I was at school. Well, history can be crooked according to the wishes of the people who teach it and then a lot of digging to find out the truth is necessary.
      Looking forward to reading more from you!

        Tyra-admin

        Hi Lenka! yes I also blame the narrow-mindedness of your educational system. You’re not the only person from Europe who has stated that they were unaware of the grave atrocities that happened here in the Americas, especially the Caribbean. But no worries! that’s why I’m here to try to educate, not only my country’s citizens (because trust me, not a lot of Bahamians are aware of this knowledge either) but also to the world.

Akshay

Awesome post. I’m really glad to read this post in the Christmas season. Church contribution towards education is all across the world. This is the greatness of our early Churches. 

You have presented the educational history of Bahamas in a wonderful way. I’ll also look for similar record in my country. 

I truly appreciate your time and efforts you have put forth to present this valuable information to us. Thanks a lot. 

    Tyranique Thurston

    Thank you, Akshay! I’m glad that you got to learn something from the article. 

    Hope you have a restful and Merry Christmas! 🙂

Moi MOI

Hello; I find your article really educational, for the history of slavery it is Africa which came back to my memory, but I would say that apart from the education that the religions brought as a contribution to the Negro peoples, there also has health as a significant contribution, the implementation of religious health centers has been of great help to all of humanity up to the present day.

    Tyranique Thurston

    Hi Moi! Thank you for taking the time to read my article!. I’d love to hear more about your opinions about the history of slavery in Africa and religious contributions to healthcare

PurpleLioness

Hiya Tyra

What a fascinating, well researched insight into early education in the Bahamas and the part played by the Church. I knew that the Church was instrumental in the education of various nations throughout the world but I didn’t realise the significance of the type of education that was available and how and to whom it was distributed. 

I am of mixed heritage, Spanish/Jamaican, my father studied at Edinburgh University in Scotland, he started his own business and sent me and my siblings to private school – I realise what a huge privilege that was (he was one of 13 children whose  Mum, my amazing grandmother, was a single parent and he worked extremely hard to afford what he did rightly believing that education was paramount) and as an adult, wish I’d realised it while I was there! 

I cannae imagine how it was possible for Bahamians to progress at all with the obstacles put in their path by lack of access to decent education and to read that people are still struggling so much is heartbreaking in this day and age. Why aren’t these the issues being discussed instead of the current affairs that trend on Twitter and Facebook like I’m a Celeb etc? Well done for putting it out there and doing the research, I really hope you can raise awareness of this continuing problem, thank you for educating me, I will share your website details as much as I can, krs PurpleLioness 

    Tyranique Thurston

    Thank you so much purple lioness! I too went to a private school (one that was historically a well known segregated school at that) and I couldn’t appreciate it while I was there either…it’s a kids thing haha.

    I completely agree with you in that the more pertinent issues aren’t being discussed as much as the unimportant ones but I hope that someday, someone will catch wind of what I was trying to do and maybe even perfect it some more.

    Thanks again for your kind words!  

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