As the sun rises slowly over the hill, it illuminates the Belmont community, in which one of its many primary schools, the St Margaret’s Boys’ Anglican School, an upcoming pride of the community and nation, is striving to develop stars. Easily accessed on Myler Street, Belmont, this educational facility welcomes young students far-ranging from Arima but with its main catchment areas being Belmont, Morvant, Laventille and Port-of-Spain proper. Unfortunately, though physically attractive—in traditional blue and khaki uniform, full of laughter and happy-go-lucky, akin to that of expected normal growing boys—an overwhelming percentage of its student population echoes many portions of calypsonian Sandra “Singing Sandra” Des Vignes’ Voices from the Ghetto. From infant level some display an intense focus on money, harsh and dangerous playing, signs of being less fortunate, delinquency, illiteracy, hunger, restlessness, brazenness and the appearance of second-nature unfavourable conduct—all destructive qualities.
Innocently smeared, I often wonder how it is possible for these tender-age students to easily focus on what’s being taught at school and comprehend a brighter side of life. Or equally important, what quality secondary school students or adults will they develop into? As Shadow says, “poverty is hell...” familiar words ring true, hence the war against social and intellectual malevolence. Even in the face of “a one-bedroom shanty,” teenage or single parent/guardian, fatherless, parentless or crime-infested home, subdued community, minimal or no basic amenities, commodities, utilities, or brands, it is imperative that children be reared to be well-rounded, well-cultured and righteous citizens—socially, academically, spiritually and emotionally sound. This vast majority of students is automatically placed in the bosom of many perils on every facet of life, but as they become exposed to contrasting teachings, role models and experiences within school, healthier segments of society, or other countries, some begin to cry out for an escape. Displaying acceptability starts to take shape, while some appear to be cemented, requiring more pointed types and echelons of strategies and tactics.
After all, children are naïve and develop innocently with an instinctive trust in their care-givers, other adults, other children, or a system, hence the reason why it is crucial to pay meticulous attention to who or what they are exposed to. The crux of the matter is, regardless of their character flaws, varied instabilities or the environment from which they emerge, novel and productive approaches must be tapped into, in their best interest. But parents, too, must be right, light-hearted, and objective. Given the spiral of juvenile fall-outs, its rise at lower ages, the escalating media or non-media crime reports emanating from the Belmont area at the turn of the century, and the tragic outcome of some of its past students, from 2002, the St Margaret’s Boys’ Anglican School began to step-up efforts to playa major role in improving its students and its reputation. This was done by motivating and empowering teachers; improving and diversifying teaching styles; improving academic performance; enhancing students’ character and self-esteem through extra-curricular programmes; and helping parents comprehend and get a grip on their responsibilities and draw them closer to the school with a view, to engender and maintain a robust parent-child-teacher relation. With its self-imposed mandate, St Margaret’s Boys’, notwithstanding grave challenges, vouched to relentlessly pursue its mission of shaping positive, disciplined and responsible young men fitting for world acceptance.
So, as many families, “tragic story was a journalist’s glory,” “mothers hold their heads and bawl,” more so, as “parents struggle to survive and children are neglected and deprived,” the school is bringing an end to these nightmares slowly but surely. As such, a joyous story for a journalist’s glory is, apart from the well-structured initiatives of swimming, track and field, Red Cross, music, remedial reading, and lighter teacher-supervised individual class activities, St Margaret’s Boys’ defining moment materialised, having decided to use pan “harmony to conquer the violence.” In September 2002, the school accepted funding from the Ministry of Education’s School Improvement Programme and embarked upon a pan project. Acting principal at that time, Marva Benjamin thought it to be a meaningful option and encouraged its development, seeing the birth of a 12-side pan group. Rearing to exhale, one month later in October, the group performed at the San Fernando Junior Arts Festival (Sanfest), where it received a Certificate of Excellence. Strengthening capacity with new, eager, students, in 2003, officially titled St Margaret’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra, placed third in the Schools Steelband Festival and second in Junior Panorama, both Under-13 category. Expanded to a body of 30-35 pannists with membership from infants to Standard five, under the guidance of principal Colette Perez, the band’s manager Rosemarie Abraham, a contingent of parents, and education officer Jacqueline Henry, the orchestra is thriving, albeit painfully. They yearn for major financial support as their growth brings hefty needs.
Although possibly, still in “a one-bedroom shanty,” the children are happy and parents hold their heads up high and smile. Also functioning in the role of SEA preparation teacher, the orchestra’s manager stated that through pan, she “cites social and academic improvement,” this “echoed by parents” and validated by “10 college passes last year, 2011,” with a decrease in the drop-out rate as “students become better disciplined.” Riding on the wave of seven Junior Panorama Under-13 wins, the group takes pride in being the only steel orchestra nationwide, with five consecutive wins, including 2012. They have also excelled seven times at the Junior Music Festival competitions. Additionally, they host two major yearly Pan Extravaganza fund-raisers, launched their first CD, Against All Odds, performed for Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to Trinidad in 2009, performed at Youth Pan Festivals in Mexico and Florida, hosted a students’ workshop at the Florida Memorial University where they interacted with music professors, and performed at the Hyatt for the Caribbean’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Day. St Margaret’s Boys’ Steel Orchestra wishes to thank all the stakeholders who made it possible for the orchestra to have soared to the level it has reached today—establishing and helping shape upright young men with special appreciation for the teachers who afforded time off to practise and extra time to re-align with school work, its manager, her team and parents.
To acquire a CD or assist in any way, contact the school:
(868) 624-4279; or manager:
(868) 768-0432 / 627-3163;