Did you know in 1838 William Muter who was a merchant, a large planter, a member of the Legislative Council and the Castries Anglican Vestry sent an application to the trustees in the Lady Mico Trust in England, which held £120,000 in funds to be used for the education of freed slaves’ children in the British West Indies?
In 1836, Muter started a school on his Roseau Estate; reportedly the only estate school in St. Lucia at the time. The children were taught by a respectable colored man who was formerly a carpenter on the plantation.
There were thirty students from four to twelve years of age who had been at school for about eight months. Some of them read words of one and two syllables and spelt very correctly. Their pronunciation was extremely good; however they did not know the meaning of many of the words.
Muter promised to make more land available for schools and the Mico Trustees granted his request. The first Mico teacher arrived in St. Lucia in May 1838 and in June the first school opened its doors in Castries.
Although Mico schools were Protestant, they accepted children of different faiths. By September a second Mico school was opened in Roseau and a third one was opened in Troumassée (did not last long)
In 1839 Mico schools were opened in Gros islet, Laborie and Vieux Fort. Meanwhile, one Christine Lloyd-Alexander of the River Dorée Anglican Household Church approached the Mico trustees to establish a school ‘to assist the poor Negro population on her estate’, offering a classroom and free accommodation for a teacher.
Did you know Soufriѐre did not get a Mico school until August 1841?
Maybe that was due to resistance from the Catholic population but in 1845 there were seven Mico schools on the island.
Although the schools were opened to all faiths, bible study was compulsory and the Catholic clergy was concerned that the schools would meddle with the religious upbringing of the Catholic students.
The Bishop of Trinidad asked the Colonial Secretary to have Catholic teachers appointed to the Mico Schools, but the Mico trustees objected on the grounds that English-speaking Catholic teachers could not be found. However, they agreed to instruct the Protestant teachers to be lenient in their approach to religious knowledge.
Nonetheless, numerous parish priests continued to oppose the Mico schools and in 1841, stipendiary magistrates island-wide reported that the priests actively advised parents to withdraw their children from school.
Source: A History of St. Lucia by Harmsen, Ellis & Devaux – 1012
This feature runs every Tuesday and Thursday. It is compiled by daughter of the soil Anselma Aimable, a former agricultural officer and former correspondent for Caribbean Net News, who has a deep interest in local culture and history. Send ideas and tips to [email protected]