THE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CO-ED SECONDARY SCHOOL: IERE HIGH SCHOOL, SIPARIA (Est. 17th January 1955)

Today’s blog post was written by Ken Kalloo, Archivist. 

Pioneer Canadian Presbyterian Minister Rev’d John Morton arrived in Trinidad on 6th January 1868 instituting a ‘mission’ that lasted until 1975 with the departure of the last Missionary personnel.

Within a few short weeks of his arrival Morton was inducted into the Iere Village Pastoral Charge which had been established by American Presbyterian Missionaries in 1843 but was not continued after 1853 because of heavy causalities among the personnel.  However, the little African congregation along with an outstation at Mt. Steward continued to be served by Scottish Missionaries working out of San Fernando. It was this little missionary plant that Morton ‘inherited’ and out of which has grown what is today recognised as the Presbyterian Church of Trinidad and Tobago (PCTT).

Very early the Missionaries embarked upon an Educational thrust along with Evangelism amongst the East Indian indentured labourers.  This latter group began arriving in Trinidad in 1845 – slavery being finally abolished in 1838.

While Evangelism was always the main thrust in the life of the Church, education played an increasingly important dimension in the subsequent growth and expansion of the Canadian Mission (PCTT).  Such an interest and commitment to Education were vital and necessary order to create and sustain a literate population so that the Christian Gospel would be available to all who come into contact with Church and School.

By 1892 there were already 52 Primary Schools established throughout the length and breadth of the island.  This number eventually grew to 72 schools at the present time.  In addition there were a number of non-assisted schools run entirely by the Canadian Mission from its own resources most of which in time completely disappeared or were taken over by the Government. One good example is the Coora Road Canadian Mission Indian (CMI) School which was closed but shortly thereafter revived by the Villagers and eventually become what is now known as the Penal-Quinam Government School.

The Church was also involved in operating ‘Night Schools’ for those who wanted to gain an education and who were able to attend such schools after their day’s labour in the cane fields.  By 1897 in the San Fernando Field alone there were 18 such ‘Night Schools’.

It became obvious that with thousands of children in the Primary School System there would arise a need for Post-Primary Schooling and this development was not long in coming.

1892:     A Theological College was established to train Preachers and Church Workers.

1894:     Naparima Training College for Teachers

1894:     Naparima College which had its origin in in 1883 in Dr. K.J. Grant’s Class.

1931:     Archibald Vocational Institute in St. Augustine

1950:     St. Augustine Girls’ High School

In the early 1950’s a survey was carried out at Naparima Boys and Naparima Girls which revealed that more than 50% of the students travelled for three to four hours everyday to get to school – all from villages outside of San Fernando.

From this survey it was learnt that about one hundred and fifty (150) students came from the oilfield area within a five mile radius of the little town of Siparia.  The information gleaned pointed in one direction.

January 17th 1955 was the great day when Naparima College (South) was opened with Rev’d. Weldon Grant as the Founding Principal along with Staff members – Mrs. Phyllis Ramcharan and Mr. Clifford Ramcharan.  Enrollment on the first day of school was 75 students.

By 1957/58 Iere High School was firmly established on a fine site comprising 14 acres at Bayanie Terrace at De Gannes Village, Siparia – the first and only Presbyterian Co-Ed Secondary School.

It is also necessary to note that Naparima College (North) was opened on the same day as Iere High School – the 17th of January 1955.  Now known as Hillview College, the founding Principal was Rev. H.F. Swann the former Principal of the Naparima Training College for Teachers.  The first classes were held on the Aramalaya Church grounds and subsequently established at El Dorado Road, Tunapuna.

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