Central High School Alumni – 3rd International Reunion – Guest Speaker Yvonne Sam

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

Alumni Association (Toronto Chapter)  – 3rd International Reunion

Saturday August 4, 2018. The Rembrandt Banquet Hall.  Toronto, Ontario. Canada.

Guest Speaker: Yvonne Sam. R. N. S.C.M., M.Ed. B.SN, Dip. Adult Ed.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guest, president and fellow alumnae. No one can image how great an honour it is for me to speak to you this evening, and that is not a cliché or a hyperbole but the plain truth. However, I stand before you not only in the capacity of guest speaker but also a senior prodigy of Guyana, and a proud alumna of Central High School.

Here we are all ready to celebrate our common history, seated among some of the individuals with whom we spent so many years in the early learning part of our lives, being fully cognizant of the fact that during those early years, our talents, beliefs and personalities were shaped colored and impacted by our experiences and interactions with teachers and fellow classmates.     

Those interactions and experiences are part of who and what we are today, a striking acknowledgement of not only the importance those school years have had in our lives , but also the undeniable and unalienable fact that Central High always stood as a formidable bastion of academic excellence. The school’s motto- Cogito, Ergo, Sum—I think, therefore I am, a term coined by the French philosopher Descartes in his writings Discourse on Method was emphasized in everything the students did, and teachers stood as living models of respect and dedication to that motto. If memory is a child, then high school is a mother. It was the place where our ambitions were fuelled and where our frameworks and philosophies all took their roots. It was the hub of all connections. It has always been a fact that high school is the venue for almost all our firsts towards adulthood. All the people with whom we attended high school are in the undetectable files of our individual hard drives.

The theme of this year’s reunion is:  Rising to know the Past, Recognize the Present, Frame the Future of Central High.

Central High School was founded in 1928 by Joseph Clemens Luck or J. C as he was better known. It was founded in an era when secondary education was available only to the privileged who could afford the cost of private secondary education. From available records J. C started with 35 students and built the school with the help of these students.  Those who took part in the building project—building benches, desks and blackboards earned tuition free spaces in return.

J.C Luck could be termed a pioneer of sorts as the concept of work study was unheard of at that time. In addition many students also gained free tuition if they displayed outstanding scholastic ability. The student body increased and Central High became without parallel one of the largest private educational institutions in Guyana providing both primary and secondary education. In the early 1950;s Central High School acquired land in Non Pareil Park, off Albert St, and a junior school pavilion was built. Those were the circumstances under which my alma mater arose to become a viable academic contender.

Education is all about learning. It is about understanding, encouragement and the ability to thrive academically. To learn you need to be inspired, and the teachers at Central High certainly encouraged and inspired us.  But education is not just about individuals, and Central High

always reflected a fundamental sense of that responsibility—to continue the quality education for which the school was known, to educate students who will know the difference between information and wisdom, and who can situate present-day  Guyanese realities in the context of the past as the country prepares for the future.

Notable products of Central High include the late President of Guyana Linden Forbes Burnham, Dr. Abraham Fung-a-Fat , founding member and former Director of Woodlands Hospital, Bernard DeSantos  Snr. Attorney-at-Law, and current Chairman of the Guyana Election  Commission – Mr. James Patterson.

With great fondness I recall some of my teachers, to whom I owe a great part of the individual I have become today.

Mr. Harewood taught French, and for reasons which appeared enigmatic at the time, labored unceasingly to ensure that not only was I linguistically proficient, but attained a level that earned me a Distinction at GCE Ordinary Level and a pass at Advanced level. Today he can be viewed as a visionary of sorts, as linguistically beleaguered Quebec has been my home for over three decades.

Sybil Pollard taught Latin—-. Even in my youthful unschooled mind I pondered as to the utility of Latin outside the confines of a classroom. Even in Latin America, Latin was not the spoken language. Armed with the knowledge that learning Latin would serve me no useful purpose beside the school, outside the school, and beyond the school brought about a gradual waning of my interest. I no longer wanted to pay attention to amo, amas, amat, timeo, miseriservi etc.  This was going to be replaced by bona puella (good girl).

Scripture or would that be Religious Instruction fell under the guidance of Maude Victor. Sadly it was being taught at a time when I was somehow or other questioning my own existence. In one final examination on the feeding of the five thousand, I juxtaposed the menu claiming that there were five fishes and two barley loaves of bread.  She was greatly taken aback at how I could err on so great a miracle. She gave me no credit for stating in my last minute display of intelligence, that I knew the fish was neither bought nor caught by Jesus but was the lunch of a boy in the crowd.

Mr. Lloyd Houston taught Chemistry at St. Philipp’s Green. However, chemistry was the last thing on the minds of the females he taught. He was a Q.C grad, clean cut, handsome and had a physique that would make even Brad Pitt regard with envy. He also had a smile that revealed gold-creased dentition which played further havoc with pre-adolescent cardiac system.

In recent times Central High has found itself in the throes of divers transitions, after standing on solid ground for over nine decades. On account of its current state of decay/ disrepair the Ministry of Education was considering the construction of a new school, but there was limited space in the area. Next came the possibility of relocation to Lodge Secondary School, an idea that sent parents into a tailspin as they became seriously concerned about security issues and the quality of education that would be offered. The school now houses a total of 401 students and still remains a leader in education achieving over the past three years an 80% pass rate at CSEC exams.  On February 16, 2018 the Ministry of Education announced that any closure of  Central High would be on hold while it explores other avenues to have the children housed comfortably.

The question that immediately springs to mind is: How can you close a school with such academic records to its credit? Granted the exterior of the school may be in a state of disrepair but the heart and soul of the school lies within its faculty and student body.  During a recent protest to the school’s closing, one placard stood out which read thus: Who in their right senses would phase out a school like Central High?  I echo the same question but with a marked difference: Who thought of such an idea in the first place”.

Central High, an institution of higher learning built on tradition and culture   has and will always stand as the epitome  of what a secondary education should be, while basking in its longevity.  It has withstood the test of time alongside the very best of learning institutions in Guyana.

It is the central forefront of our educational being, and our youth is the central course of the future. Perhaps it was this thought that Joseph Clemens Luck had in mind when he gave the school its name. To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt-, the 32nd President of the United States—

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future. Youth equals promise. Age equals promise fulfilled. We acknowledge an indelible connection to those who came before-, who remind us of what is possible for us by their demonstration of what was possible for them. The history of Central High instills both expectations and responsibilities as it challenges the youth to inhabit this legacy. No student can sit in any classroom in Central High without sighting the ghosts of lawyers, judges, doctors, thinking about scientists, actors or aspiring to follow in the steps of musicians.

We expect the future to be as long as the past, hence we must act in ways that are not just about tomorrow- but about decades and even centuries to come. This means that we teach our youth with the intention of shaping the whole of their lives as well as readying them for what happens when they depart the halls of academia—surmounting the risks of uncharted seas. The history of Central High provides a compass with which to guide.  Central High has been inventing the future. History is where the future begins.

So let us all reflect with profound gratitude how blessed each and every one of us were to have been a part of such a notable place of learning.  Together let us strive to do all that is humanly and humanely possible to inspire our youth, encourage them to learn and give them the assurance that even in its current decayed state and its dubious fate the doors to  their learning institution –would always remain open.

Together let us stand tall, one and all. Sound the clarion far and near – The name Central High will never disappear.  The entire world will see the international alumni will always its guardians be.

***********

3rd International Reunion. Alumni Association (Toronto Chapter) August 4, 2018. Toronto

  ODE TO CENTRAL HIGH  – By Yvonne Sam

O Central High our alma mater

Shining so bright and true

With campus green and hallowed halls

We’ll always think of you

 

From out those halls of truth and love

Our friendships will remain

As constant as our love for thee

We’ll never forget your name.

 

The joys we shared together there

The spirit secure and strong

Through loss and victory we strive

To keep shining bright and long

 

The years of learning quickly fly

Too soon it was time to say good bye

So hail to thee our Alma Mater

Forever Central High

 

One final note before we go

Dear Alma mater to whom we so much owe

We pledge to fight cost it what it may

So that the name Central High will forever stay.

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Comments

  • Kenneth Soobrian  On August 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    A fitting tribute to my alma mater

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