Understanding the real hub of our community
In January, I submitted my concerns regarding the proposed closure of the West End Primary School. This second submissions follows as a result of reviewing the Government’s well-advertised information.
One of the facts stated is that you are seeking to make schools “fit for purpose” and the “hub” of the community.
It is now obvious that no one in the decision-making process took the time or probably ever considered familiarising themselves with the Sandys community. The traumatic segregated past that permeated this community makes it difficult and impossible for many to accept the Government’s proposed decision.
The insensitivity to our displeasure is hurtful. We cannot and will not forget the past privileged financial benefits afforded one school versus the traditional deprivation of the other. This unequal past has made one school more worthy than the other.
I sincerely hope this was an oversight in your deliberations. If so, as I said previously, the evil era of segregation has won. Not only has it won, but it is continued by a government into which we elected four Members of Parliament. This is shameful.
The West End school sits in a prominent and convenient location off Scott’s Hill Road. It is surrounded by a well-populated and close-knit community. Parents feel secure in allowing their children to walk unaccompanied to school. They walk the same familiar route of many generations before them. They walk from Sound View Road, Bob’s Valley, Cook’s Hill, Scott’s Hill, Broom Street and byways in between. There are others who travel by the bus, which stops conveniently at the school gate. The passage to school is completed smoothly and within proximity of their homes.
Sandys Secondary Middle School sits almost across the street and the students look forward to the transfer from primary school to middle school. This transfer takes place almost effortlessly.
Before the pandemic, school sports saw generations of West End families gathering on the grassy borders of the school field or sitting together on the elevated concrete areas — it’s as though a family reunion is taking place.
They see Jay Donawa and Larry Hunt actively involved in assisting with the organisation of the day. Before the pandemic, the Somerset Brownies met at West End and the members of Allen Temple AME Church came weekly to read to the children. A retired teacher came once a week, after school, to assist children who required tutoring. They realise these men and women are volunteering their time and so, without effort, the children learn the importance of volunteering for their school, community and, later on, the world. The foundation has been laid.
Somerset Cricket Club, with its youth sporting programmes, is just down the road. The local barbershop is across from the school. Bailey’s shop is only steps away. Baxter’s, a favourite with the students of both schools can be safely accessed. Just up the road is Beulah Tabernacle. This school is surrounded by long-established family businesses. It is the “hub” of the community.
There is no need to create what is already there. In your efforts to improve our educational system, you have chosen to destroy the centre of this community. A school that has survived because, before we were born, our ancestors knew the importance of education.
Despite years of deprivation, this school has soldiered on with its hand-me-down desks and government snubs. Can you imagine young children facing the busy Somerset main road before they get to the Somerset Primary traffic crossing? Do they need to be confronted by the human element loitering in the bus stops on both sides of the road. It is unthinkable.
In 1962, six additional classrooms were planned to accommodate the infant block. In reviewing the plans, the principal voiced concerns regarding the breezeways between every two classes. He reminded them that Bermuda’s weather was not similar to the Caribbean. Schools here are open during periods of extreme inclement weather with cold, windy, rainy days.
This suggestion was arrogantly ignored. It was a cheaper alternative. Construction began and the “freezeway”, as it was called, made for miserable conditions. Eventually, the area was closed, making for an unattractive architectural blunder.
Is it not evident that the long-suffering West End school deserves something in keeping with what you are proposing? These are modern times. Don’t sell architects short. If not out, then there is always up. Given the opportunity, they can create effectively what is required.
West End cries out for positive government attention. Easy is not always best. The breezeway was cheaper but in the end, it was not the best and had to be corrected at additional cost. Is this what we should be prepared for in the future construction and renovations?
We have an overwhelming feeling that we are being coerced into accepting your decision to move to a facility that painfully burns into our psyche. New buildings will not produce better students. Look at the track record of West End students named in my first submission. They have achieved in spite of. We want teachers that are well treated, respected and adequately educated with the required tools to perform comfortably as they face this new generation of students.
Foreign consultants will never be able to tell us as Bermudians what is best for our children. Many of them are from countries that struggle to adequately educate their own. We seem to always fall into the trap that foreign ideas are always better. We are Bermudians with hopes and dreams for our children. Foreign experts can never begin to truly understand.
I ask you to ponder a while on this quote and apply it in your deliberations.
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr, a US historian stated: “Science and technology revolutionise our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response.”
• Cecille C. Snaith-Simmons, the mother of MP Jamahl Simmons, is a former student of West End Primary School and the recent winner in the Adult section of the Dr Stanley Ratteray Memorial Christmas Short Story Contest