I owe a great deal to Cal­abar.

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - ‘From the very start, we learned that Cal­abar was cre­ated for a very spe­cial pur­pose: to en­able those of us who came from fam­i­lies of lim­ited fi­nan­cial means to trans­form our own lives, and in do­ing so, to point the wider so­ci­ety to­wards the di­rec­tion of

I owe a great deal to Cal­abar.

‘From the very start, we learned that Cal­abar was cre­ated for a very spe­cial pur­pose: to en­able those of us who came from fam­i­lies of lim­ited fi­nan­cial means to trans­form our own lives, and in do­ing so, to point the wider so­ci­ety to­wards the di­rec­tion of free­dom in the coun­try and full re­spect for its peo­ple.’

On one oc­ca­sion when the de­bate was opened to the floor, I dared to put for­ward my opin­ion. I was sum­mar­ily chased out of the room by the se­niors ... .

PAT­TER­SON: I OWE A GREAT DEAL TO CAL­ABAR

P.J. Pat­ter­son, ON, OCC, PC, QC, was Ja­maica’s sixth and long­est-serv­ing prime min­is­ter from 1992 to 2006. His book, My Po­lit­i­cal Jour­ney: Ja­maica’s Sixth Prime Min­is­ter, pub­lished by The Univer­sity of the West In­dies Press, will be launched next week. The Gleaner will be pub­lish­ing ex­cerpts every day un­til the launch. This is Part Four.

WHILE CAL­ABAR was iden­ti­fied as hav­ing a spe­cial at­trac­tion for boys be­long­ing to a “class on the rise”, it made sure to wel­come all so­cial classes and every colour, so that the stu­dent body would be mul­tira­cial and start build­ing friend­ships that would prove last­ing and tran­scend the bar­ri­ers of race and class.

To find room for the 11 boys who were con­signed to sec­ond form in 1948, the class­room was in a tiny space be­tween the class­rooms for 5A and 5B. When­ever there was a de­bate among the fifth­form­ers, I would take every op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten. On one oc­ca­sion when the de­bate was opened to the floor, I dared to put for­ward my opin­ion. I was sum­mar­ily chased out of the room by the se­niors, who would not tol­er­ate such au­dac­ity from a sec­ond-for­mer in short pants.

In due course, I be­came a for­mi­da­ble de­bater and rep­re­sented Cal­abar in in­ter­school com­pe­ti­tions. This helped to boost my suc­cess­ful cam­paign for pres­i­dent of the Sixth Form As­so­ci­a­tion. We met every Satur­day at ei­ther Wolmer’s or St Hugh’s High School for Girls. We sought to in­sert our views in the na­tional dis­course and to en­gage in a wide range of com­mu­nity projects. It also pro­vided an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for so­cial­is­ing.

In the scout move­ment, I rose from be­ing a ten­der­foot to pa­trol leader and later troop leader. This was an­other op­por­tu­nity for lead­er­ship train­ing. As part of my test to gain the first-class badge, I was re­quired to take three boys with me and set up camp at the Red Hills prop­erty which the Bap­tists had ac­quired. In the bushes and ru­inate we had to con­tend with rats, snakes and mon­goose and we were only able to sur­vive there for a sin­gle night.

My sixth-form ex­pe­ri­ence was en­hanced by close as­so­ci­a­tion with the Young Men’s Chris­tian As­so­ci­a­tion (YMCA). Wes­ley Pow­ell, founder of Ex­cel­sior High School and distin­guished ed­u­ca­tor, was ac­tive in the club, and most of the is­land’s prom­i­nent busi­ness­men were YMCA mem­bers. It spon­sored an an­nual sum­mer day camp for three weeks at Don­caster (Boy Scouts’ head­quar­ters). Coun­sel­lors were drawn from the high schools and lived at the YMCA at Hanover Street for the three weeks of the camp. I was one. We formed a spe­cial bond and de­vel­oped a strong so­cial con­science.

Each coun­sel­lor was given full re­spon­si­bil­ity for 10 boys for the three weeks. I took my boys on a hike to Wareika Hills one day. We took the route across from Rock­fort and back down to the Univer­sity Col­lege of the West In­dies. One of my charges fell and broke his an­kle, and I had to carry him from the cam­pus down to Hanover Street, some five miles, in the mer­ci­less Ja­maican sun.

With the in­crease in stu­dent num­bers, Cal­abar had out­grown the space at Stud­ley Park Road and the build­ings were crum­bling. Hur­ri­cane Char­lie in 1951 had torn off the roofs of sev­eral class­rooms, so we had to sit our Se­nior Cam­bridge Ex­ams in the open air. In the school’s move from Stud­ley Park Road to Red Hills Road in 1952, we se­nior boys had to help the younger ones to cope with the change of lo­ca­tion and our new sur­round­ings.

Among the out­stand­ing mem­bers of staff was Neville Dawes, who taught me English lit­er­a­ture as his spe­cial stu­dent. He had a strong im­pact on me, and to a large de­gree in­flu­enced my choice of an English ma­jor at the Univer­sity Col­lege of the West In­dies.

Cal­abar was spawned to re­move the ves­tiges of slav­ery; to chal­lenge the so­cial sta­tus quo; to lib­er­ate the mind; to fash­ion the ap­ti­tudes and the dis­po­si­tion of young men to en­able them to make their own dis­tinc­tive mark on the con­tours of our nation and the hori­zons of our re­gion and the world.

I owe a great deal to Cal­abar, which opened the door of op­por­tu­nity and en­abled us to pre­pare fully to take our place in life and our com­mu­nity. When Cal­abar cel­e­brated its cen­te­nary in 2012, I was asked to serve as pa­tron and honorary chair. It gave me a wel­come op­por­tu­nity to ex­press my in­debt­ed­ness in the fore­word to Arnold Ber­tram’s History of Cal­abar High School: “From the very start, we learned that Cal­abar was cre­ated for a very spe­cial pur­pose: to en­able those of us who came from fam­i­lies of lim­ited fi­nan­cial means to trans­form our own lives, and in do­ing so, to point the wider so­ci­ety to­wards the di­rec­tion of free­dom in the coun­try and full re­spect for its peo­ple.”

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter and old boy P.J. Pat­ter­son greets stu­dents at a stu­dent mo­ti­va­tion and em­pow­er­ment pro­gramme be­fore speak­ing to 40 sixth-form stu­dents at Cal­abar High School last month.

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