Jamaica has some of the oldest educational institutions in the Caribbean, many of which originated from their benefactors’ concerns for the education of the country’s poor – usually the children of poor whites, as there was no system in place for the education of the children of slaves. Today, we take a look at the five oldest schools in the country, one of which is also the oldest in the West Indies.
- The Wolmers School – On May 21, 1729, John Wolmer made his last will and testament, bequeathing the bulk of his estate – 2,360 pounds sterling – for the foundation of a free school in whichever parish he happened to die. Wolmer’s Boys School was officially founded on that day, making it the oldest school in the Caribbean. However, it took a few years of amendments and conferences between the House of Assembly and the Council before a law was passed giving effect to the will, and the Wolmer’s Trust which would manage the affairs of the school was established in 1736… Read more
- Manning’s School – The history of the Manning’s School actually predates the establishment of Wolmer’s by 19 years, as Thomas Manning’s gift of land for the setting up of the institution was made in 1710. The Westmoreland planter’s bequest stagnated until 1738, when the Jamaica Assembly facilitated the effecting of his will by passing an Act, Eleventh George II chapter 9, after which the Free School was formally established. It is interesting to note that the school was established on the present site near Savanna-la-mar instead of on the lands left by Manning at Burnt Savannah Pen, at the northern end of the George’s Plain… Read more
- St Jago High School – The Free School of St Jago de la Vega opened in 1744, thanks to an endowment from Jamaica’s Lieutenant Governor, Colonel Peter Beckford. 100 years after Beckford’s passing in 1730, Francis Smith, the Custos of St Catherine left three thousand pounds to establish a school. That school, the Smith’s Charity School was opened in 1833 and Beckford and Smith’s was born of a 1846 merger. In 1897, Archbishop Enos Nuttall founded the Cathedral High School for Girls. By 1956, the all boys Beckford and Smith High School merged with Cathedral High to form today’s St Jago High.
- Rusea’s High School – Rusea’s High School was founded by Frenchman Martin Rusea, who was forced to leave France because of religious persecution, as recompense for the kindness shown to him by the people of Hanover. In his 1764 will, he bequeathed all he had for the establishment of a trust school for the children of Hanover. In 1777, parliament passed an act making his will legal and a board of trustees was selected to set up the school we know today, after it had been merged with Hanover Secondary School in 1982… Read more
- Titchfield High School – Titchfield High School was established in 1786 in Port Antonio in an area called Free School. The Jamaica School Commission took over the management from the school’s trust in 1883. It leased, from the Government, the old military barracks of Fort George and a day school for boys and one for girls was established in 1886 with Major WH Plant as headmaster. At first, the school consisted of Infant, Elementary and Secondary departments, but the elementary and infant departments later separated from the Trust, leaving just the high school. Five courses were taught there: the three Rs – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic, plus Greek and Latin.