Slavery Education and inequality-History of education in the Bahamas part III

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.

Abolition of physical labor but continuation of mental slavery

Abolition of physical labor but continuation of mental slavery Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1336106

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:

  1. 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),
  2. 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
  3. 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.

14 thoughts on “Slavery Education and inequality-History of education in the Bahamas part III”

jazzy323

Yes I totally agree that we can have come far, but we have so much progression to do, particularly as there are unfortunately segregations of people that have the same mindset as was in the period of slavery. I also find it horrific that slaves would be punished if they were educated

Rodarrick

Wow! Seriously! I really like a lot of information you have shared here  on the issue of education in the Bahamas. Often, it has been a bit of unknown to me since I didn’t have too much knowledge. Now that I have read about them, it makes quite a lot of sense. Thanks so much for sharing here.

Christine

Teaching a group of 40 children is hard. That happens not only in the Bahamas, but also in Mexico, in public schools. As a teacher you cannot give personal attention to each and every student when the group is so big. You’re not doing the children any justice. Everyone also has different learning abilities. So, I understand what you’re writing about. I am a teacher in Mexico, and although I work in a private school where groups are smaller and more personal attention can be given, I know how difficult it is in public schools … 

The educational system is failing many students, and it’s sad … 

    Tyranique Thurston

    Wow. I’m saddened to hear that this is a problem that persists even in Mexico. Thank you so much for sharing!

Pablo

Interesting history of this country. I was investigating a little and
I read that 95.6% of children over 15 can read and write. This rate is increasingly lower, since in 1995 98% of the population had some type of studies.

I also discovered that there are considerable differences between the quality of education in public schools and that of private schools.

While in public schools 44% of students and 51% of students obtained their high school diploma, in private schools the figure reaches 87.6%.

The main cause of all this is the lack of teaching material and overpopulation in public schools. In addition, it is completely impossible to have access to the Internet, the main source of information.

Do you know if there are any international organizations trying to make this better?

Thank you very much for this information and understand the situation in the Bahamas a little more.

regards
Pablo

    Tyranique Thurston

    Exactly Pablo! and there are no international organizations that have caught on to our issues in education that I know of to date. Personally, I wish that they don’t and that we can fix our own issues but a lot of our citizens (especially the older ones) are completely stubborn and selfish. That’s what is also hindering our progressiveness.

Chris

Wow! This post is a very good source of insight into the history of education in the Bahamas.
I believe this is a problem that can be fixed with the cooperation of the government, teachers and students alike.
I personally don’t think the inadequacies of the students to understand some core subjects should be blamed on the teachers alone. There should be a provision for more suitable learning environment for the students. The number of students in a classroom should be equal to the ability of the teacher so as to bring out the best in each of the students.
Meanwhile, this article is a good source of information for my research on a related topic. Thanks for the information.

    Tyranique Thurston

    Yes I completely agree with you Chris! Everyone needs to come together to make it work instead of casting blames on each other (which is exactly what we do here in the Bahamas).

Md Millat

Thank you so much for sharing such an excellent article with us. Your article was beautiful and interesting and informative. I have got a lot of information about the Slavery education inequality-History of education in the Bahamas. In the past, slaves were considered to be poor people and were not respected and their owners did not want them to be done educated. Discrimination existed between the owners and the slaves. In 1938, slaves were released in the Bahamas. And they were thinking about the education of their freed slaves so they opened the school for their slaves. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back to your website later. I really liked reading such a beautiful story and I think other people will love this story too. Thank you again for giving such a wonderful post.

MrBiizy

I understand that we are concerned with Bahamas and slavery education and inequality history of education. I am a black from a black country so this totally resonates with.my country too. This is very common is most black countries as well. Back then in my grade level, we were more than 30 in class and I must say that this truly had negative impact on most of us because the teacher wouldn’t have time for everyone, moreover we are many in number.

As parents, we also have a role to play in the education of our children and we shouldn’t force them to study what we want them to study. It is very common that a black man would want his child to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. This is not fair for God’s sake. We should create time to help our children with their assignments. We should not do it for them but rather, guide them to do it themselves. This would help in a way. That’s exactly what I intend doing.

Regards!

    Tyranique Thurston

    Thank you Mr Biizy! Where are you from? because i find it astounding that this issues exist wherever black people are

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