Cox, 84, still ‘dispensing’ education
VETERAN EDUCATOR Olivier St Clair Cox grew up in a time when free education was very hard to come by.
He had no silver spoon or rich parents to carve a way for him.
But seeing his parents work hard was a privilege. He used it to his advantage.
Cox’s father was a carpenter and his mother a general nurse/midwife. They were Seventh-Day Adventists.
Cox, principal of The Metropolitan High School, spoke to the Sunday Sun in the school’s bookstore situated at Roebuck Street, The City, a space he has occupied for about 60 years. It’s where he spends a lot of his time if he’s not playing the organ for a service at Tudor’s chapel, or a funeral at Westbury Cemetery.
The room, mostly filled with books, contains a few oddities: his keyboard, (which he sometimes uses during morning prayers) and a vintage clock. With a flick of a switch on the clock, he can “ring the school bell”.
Despite the antiquity in the atmosphere, Cox’s memory remains fresh.
“When I was a boy they did not have the free secondary education like there is today. In order to get into secondary school you either had to have a vestry [a scholarship given to poor people] or your parents would have to pay. In those days my father would leave home for work sometimes at 4 a.m. walking. If he had a job to do in Christ Church, he’d be walking from Bush Hall up to where ever that job is,” the 84-year-old said.
Those were the days where there was no Queen Elizabeth Hospital or Maternity Hospital. Often he watched as his mother had to unexpectedly pick up her supplies to make a delivery.
“Sometimes we’d get a knock at the door. ‘Nurse, come quick, so and so just take in’,” he recalled.
Ten shillings per birth was her payment.
“But the truth is, sometimes we would be almost without food or anything. I could remember hearing my parents saying ‘the Lord will provide, the Lord will provide’ and then soon after that stuff come just in time,” Cox said.
Before entering the teaching profession, Cox, who is a father of ten, attended the Seventh-Day Adventist School and earned himself a diploma in theology at Codrington College.
His goal was to be a doctor but his parents could not afford the cost, so they encouraged him to be an apprentice druggist at Noel Roach’s pharmacy in Speightstown.
And up to this day he does not take any medication without knowing the ingredients.
He eventually was led back to his alma mater, where he was asked to fill in for a teacher.
“I well remember going to the Adventist School because there was a teacher there whose father was sick and he asked me if I could come and hold on for him. I didn’t know I could teach but I did such a good job that the head teacher at that time gave me a good recommendation so that was when I knew I could,” he said with a smile.
As the saying goes, the rest is history. After he got his first taste in the classroom, he attended the Evening Institute, where he got more academic qualifications for the role.
In a relatively short period he was teaching at the Modern High School.
By age 23, he had moved on to Federal High School, under the leadership of headmaster Arlington Dacosta “Joy” Edwards. During his time there, he also conducted evening lessons at his Peterkin Road, Bank Hall, St Michael home.
Edwards was unable to pay him during the upcoming vacation so they parted ways professionally, leading Cox to open his own evening school at Barbarees Hill.
Within a short time, he opened two more schools, one of them in Roebuck Street.
In the 61 years the school has been in session, it has produced many who have gone on to be productive citizens in prominent positions.
During its heyday there were as many as 800 pupils on the school’s roll, but at the end of the last term, there were only about 30.
Despite this, Cox still believes in the school and the importance of education. And he wants more students to take it seriously, especially since it is “free . . . . This freeness is one of the things I think that causes the children not to be as appreciative,” he added.
“Some students study because it is the thing to do; several of them don’t see that education is vital . . . . We knew in those days that in order to achieve we had to study. If that meant we studied by kerosene oil, we would.
“I think that when a thing is free, you do not value it as much. Although the school fees that they were paying at Federal and Modern were not very much, still they were invested in their studies.
“There were children who rode from St Lucy to ’Town and got to school early,” he added
Looking back on his life, he said he had no regrets.
“I am proud when I see the pupils in certain positions and I know that they passed through Metropolitan, but I cannot say that I have any regret because God has been good to me,” he said. (TG)