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    November 16

  • 07:16 PM

Black History Month: Augustus Rawle Parkinson

SHERRYLYN CLARKE, sherrylynclarke@nationnews.com

Added 24 February 2014

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​Researched by SANDRA SEALEY ​Augustus Rawle Parkinson is irrefutably the father of technical and vocational education in Barbados. ​In an age when Barbadian educators and parents emphasised adherence to the traditional academic curriculum, Parkinson suggested and implemented a programme which would revolutionise the thinking of Barbadian educators. Born May 6, 1865, in St John, Parkinson received an elementary education but like so many black boys of the era, he did not reach the exclusive secondary stage. Nonetheless, his early promise was recognised and he entered the pupil teacher system in preparation for a career in teaching. In 1884, at the age of 19, Parkinson was appointed headmaster of Hurd Memorial and, after a few years, he was promoted to Wesley Hall Boys’ School. It was at Wesley Hall, located at the corner of Tudor Street and Sobers Lane, that he left a great imprint. As headmaster for about 30 years, he created an institution that provided a balanced education. His presence at Wesley Hall raised the standard of education as students gained entry to the prestigious grammar schools. Parkinson introduced music into the primary curriculum but saw education in its broadest sense. Inspired by the Booker T. Washington model of vocational education at the famous Tuskegee Institute, Parkinson added the 3 Hs to the 3 Rs – training of head, heart and hand. After his 1912 visit to the Tuskegee Institute, he was convinced that vocational training would be useful at the primary level. To this end, he introduced classes in carpentry, printing, shoemaking and brush-making. Parkinson was also a strict disciplinarian who promoted justice and fair play. A devout Methodist, he was appointed to the Legislative Council, taking over from Francis Godson (1864–1953) who helped poor Barbadians overcome the hardship of the first world war. ​His exploits at Wesley Hall prepared him for a much greater task at the Rawle Training Institute where he served as Master of Method between 1926 and 1929. As an educator, he attended two major conferences: one at the Tuskegee Institute in 1912 and another, the West Indian Education Conference, in Trinidad in 1921. At the former, the three-man Barbados delegation also included Washington Harper and Elliott Durant and was highly spoken of by Booker T. Washington, who commented on their great eloquence. Parkinson died on January 31, 1932, but his ideas on technical and vocational education were taken up in the 1960s with the establishment of a polytechnic. He was not only an excellent teacher and administrator but also an educational reformer. He gave 48 years to education in Barbados and fully deserves his inclusion in F.A. Hoyos’ Builders Of Barbados. ​The Parkinson Memorial Secondary School bears his name. His home is well maintained by the Belle family as part of the Fairfield Pottery establishment. ​ SouRce: Shaping A Nation: Principals Of Barbadian Schools1900-1980 by historian Dr Henderson Carter. ​

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