Santa Rosa Secondary School was founded in 1991 not 1994

Dear Editor,

About three weeks ago, in the Sunday Times, there was a story about the establishment of the Santa Rosa Secondary School in Moruka. It said that the school was celebrating its 18th anniversary having been established on January 3, 1994 and there was some kind of function to mark the occasion.

The story is good and well intentioned, accepting there is a mistake in the date of establishment. This school was established in 1991 (about September) and not 1994. I understand from one of the original teachers that it was gazetted on January 3, 1994.

The monogram in front of the school says that it was established in January 1994. Since that publication, I have spoken with the editor of the Times and the Toshao of Santa Rosa Village, Mr Marco DeSouza hoping that there would be further investigation and a correction. This has not happened and thus the reason for this letter.

I decided to do a little research on this school when, a couple of years ago, a very senior government official made a public statement saying that there were no secondary schools in the interior of Guyana prior to October, 1992. I knew this was not true as St Ignatius Secondary School in the Rupununi was established many years before 1992. A few letters written to the press mentioned other schools, but not Santa Rosa, (as far as I can remember).

Allow me to give a brief history of the establishment of this school. It was an initiative of the parents of the area. The Santa Rosa Primary School is one of the oldest educational institutions in the interior of Guyana, probably established about eighty years ago. Santa Rosa Village is by far the largest Amerindian village in Guyana, with a present population of about 7,500 persons. Some students attended secondary schools in Georgetown by way of the Government’s Hinterland Scholarship Programme and according to the Times, some went to schools on the Essequibo Coast. But the vast majority of the students could not make it to a secondary school.

The parents’ initial approach was to sub-regional education officer in Moruka. This drew a blank. They then went to the Regional Administration and were successful. They were given permission to start up with the support of the region.

The first class was “housed” on the stage of the Santa Rosa Primary School. Soon after, they applied for and obtained the use of a part of the old administration centre at Acquero which was granted by Mr Barry Ward, Regional Chairman. In 1997, the school moved to Kumaka which was gradually replacing Acquero as the sub-regional administration centre.

The first teachers at the school were Justin Mendonca (deceased), who was the first headmaster; Vic Ferreira who was seconded from the Santa Rosa Primary school; and David James, who later became an attorney-at-law and were all paid by the Government of Guyana, along with Rene Van Dongen, a VSO teacher. Among the first students, about fourteen in number, were the following: Murphy DeSouza, a trained teacher and UG graduate who is now teaching at Santa Rosa Secondary School; Lolita Rebeiro, currently the Medex at the Moruka Hospital; Charlene Rodrigues (sister of current Minister of Foreign Affairs), a teacher of Santa Rosa Secondary School and at present a student at the University of Guyana; Bruce Rodrigues, who was working at a bank in Georgetown and who still lives in the city; Thyron Eusebio an employee of Frandec travel Services; Graham Atkinson, a graduate of UG who lives in Moruka; Colin de la Cruz, current Headmaster of Manawarin Primary School; Ramona Ferreira and Wanda Abraham, who are teachers at the Santa Rosa Primary School. Mr George Vanderwood the then Priest at the Roman Catholic Church, now lives in Bartica.

A look back at the article would have allowed the writer to see the mistake. She says, correctly, that the students wrote the CXC exams in 1995. Now, those students couldn’t have completed the high school curriculum writing several subjects in one-and-a-half years.

Further, she says that there were fourteen students in January, 1994. This is also not true. There were additional classes in 1992 and 1993 so that by January, 1994, there were three classes.

Editor, I have gone into some detail because I believe that the history of Santa Rosa Secondary School should be accurately recorded. We cannot erase the history between 1991 and 1994.
Yours faithfully,
Fazel Khan

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