I know. Sometimes the topic seems to be rehashed way too many times but its impact had been so severe to our black ancestors that the effects of it have known to have been passed down through generations and that cannot be ignored.
This is because when you are considered one-tenth of a human (no more than animal cattle), you are stripped of any and all basic human rights, which meant that when those rights do become accessible to you, you’d want your children, and your children’s children to take advantage of it fully, even when you don’t fully understand what to do with it.
This was very evident within Bahamians’ drive towards education.
The woes of Slavery
A slave was forbidden to be educated because plantation owners and merchants feared slave uprisings. Therefore, if the slave master learned that one of his slaves could read, usually that slave was severely punished.
Luckily, when slavery was abolished in the Bahamas in 1838, the British crown finally considered the black population as equals in the crown. So they thought that it was imperative that the “freed negros” were given education in order to properly assimilate into society.
The plantation owners, on the other hand, thought that teaching their ‘property’ subjects such as math and English was completely unnecessary but they did agree that freed slaves would be a danger to them unless they trained them ‘to be freedmen and women’ in society, which formed the basis for apprenticeship programs. Within these apprenticeship programs, the freed slaves were supposedly given “mental,” “moral,” and “spiritual equipment” to integrate into society.
The non-conformist missionary groups and abolitionists hated this idea. They just considered it another form of slavery. Nevertheless, the apprenticeship program ended in 1840 with slaves still uneducated and unequipped to properly assimilate into society as equals.
Yay! We can finally learn how to be successful as our white masters…but not so fast
Eventually, two free public schools were opened on New Providence for the newly liberated slaves but this caused problems of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Additionally, because these schools were only located on New Providence, the liberated slaves on the out Islands were severely neglected for years. For example, the first school in Grand Bahama did not appear until 1908. That’s a whole 70 years after slavery was abolished and education was allowed to freed slaves.
Moreover, the British Crown gave 25,000 pounds to the Board of education in 1835, which resulted in the creation of 29 schools by 1859. However, the total number of teachers at the time was thirty-nine. Yes. You read that correctly. That’s roughly one teacher per school.
To combat this, the Board of Education had to rely solely on the Madara/Dr. Bell/Monitoring system (which I will explain in Part IV of this series) because it was cheaper and more efficient. Sadly, this meant that some were not getting access to quality education, usually, it was the black children.
In other words, most black kids were unable to receive quality education, no matter what. And it still persists today.
We came from far…but we still have a long, long ways to go
Now you might say that private schools are currently more welcoming (so much so that I know of a particular private school handing out athletic scholarships like candy) so access to quality education has broadened. However, these schools are now overcrowded, taking us back to the initial problem at hand.
Think about it. Are your kids actually receiving quality education when the class size can be up to 40 students per teacher? It doesn’t matter how qualified the teacher is or how good they are at teaching or how much money you are paying in school fees. How can one person effectively split their attention in 40 different ways when each child has different learning capabilities?
OK. Let’s put this into perspective. When Government High first opened in 1925, there were only 5 students in the class. This meant that each student was getting the attention that they needed to effectively succeed. Additionally, it was much easier to identify the slower learner and when they did, the student was refused to advance to the next level until they were up to par with their work.
It’s not possible for this to happen in a class of 30-40 students. In fact, there are way too many students that slip through the cracks and advance to the next level despite their struggles with understanding foundational topics.
Then by the time they arrive at grade 12, it’s already too late. This means that teachers will start recommending these students to complete the core BGCSE paper rather than the extended paper (which is silly as I explained in part I of this series) because the students are not able to handle an extended paper and this leads to a very dismal grade average.
Our educational system is perpetually failing us
Most black Bahamian parents have ignored this fact entirely and deemed it absolutely imperative that their child not only graduate from a private secondary institution, but they attend a tertiary educational institution as well, despite the fact that most Bahamian students these days:
- have no firm foundation on core subjects such as math and English (which can be blamed on a variety of factors such as overcrowding, poor teaching methods, too advance of a curriculum, parents not giving them any homework attention…etc),
- have no idea what career they will choose since they are limited in their options (most black parents push their child to become a doctor, lawyer or an accountant, which is uninteresting to most) and
- lack the motivation to complete these degrees (because there is little to no options to choose from in the Bahamian job market).
It also doesn’t help that the little jobs that are available are requiring higher degrees for little pay and rejecting applicants for being, “overqualified.” This perpetual cycle is dooming our society and our economy. The problem here is that the cycle was put in place by a white majority government to ensure the masses were kept illiterate and dependent upon them and yet it exists when the Bahamas is a majority-black nation that is run by a majority Black government (most of whom actually had access to quality education which will be further explained in part V of this series).
Additionally, teachers have always been blamed for these inadequacies but should they be? Stay tuned as I give my take on this issue in part IV of this series.
Until then, I’d like to hear from you guys. Do you think slavery has had a serious impact on how Bahamians are educated today? Why or why not? Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.