Placing a premium on education: Annandale businesses support growth of secondary school

As the story goes, the name Annandale is said to honour the two daughters of the proprietor of the tract of land to which the name was given. The two girls, Ann and Dale, reportedly died tragically after which their combined names were given to their father’s land as a tribute to them.

Annandale is located on the East Coast Demerara, some 12 miles from the capital. Wedged between Lusignan and Buxton, Annandale was once part of the much larger Lusignan Sugar Estate. After the sugar factory was closed in 1954, Annandale opted for autonomy.

Aunty Picky
Aunty Picky
 Rajkumar Outar
Rajkumar Outar

Historically, the sugar estate had employed many of the men from the community. Others became private service providers, plying their respective trades in ventures that included tailoring, barbering and welding.

The past two decades or so have brought other changes. Annandale’s main economic activity has shifted from agriculture to trading. Several businesses ranging from the establishment known simply as ‘Rasta’ offering necessities like bread and cheese, to the weekend ‘Souse Lady,’ to the more established supermarkets like Paramount and Pepsi offer their services cheek by jowl. The former facilities are spartan, whilst the latter are modern and air-conditioned. Groceries apart, some of the shops offer a limited range of over-the-counter medicines and cellular phone top up.

Beyond the basic service entities, Annandale boasts services like Modern Grafix, a state-of-the-art sign printing establishment that designs and prints customized adornments for automobiles.

Some habits, however, persist. Fishing remains a popular economic pursuit. At any point in time, at least a dozen fishing boats, fresh from the Atlantic Ocean, can be seen unloading their catch onto Canter trucks bound for the market.

  Annandale Secondary School
Annandale Secondary School

Residents of Annandale are inclined to celebrate special occasions, including festive events vigorously. They take to the Annandale Market, supermarkets and wharf to get their shopping done. They look forward to holiday bargains. They boast that there are few if any ‘bargains’ to be found in the capital that are not available in Annandale – pots, hardware, car parts, gift items, baby clothing and maternity supplies are all offered at the various outlets in Annandale.

The community regards its school, the Annandale Secondary School, as the jewel in its crown. It was built in the 1960s to accommodate the significant influx of families who arrived there at the time. Construction of the initial L-shaped building began in 1962 and the school was formally opened on September 2, 1963. The school’s first headmaster was the renowned educator C M Agard, though Annandale is equally proud to boast of the succession of women who headed the secondary school including Joan Persaud and Kalowtie Singh.

To its considerable credit Annandale’s business community is not unmindful of the role which the school plays in the development of the community.

The school’s Acting Headmaster Nicholas Persaud, himself an ‘old boy’ of the institution, said that as far back as he can remember the business community has always been supportive of the growth and development of the institution. There exists an efficient regime of committees that administer periodic donations earmarked for various projects. By the same token the school itself as well as parents of children attending the school are supportive of the business community.

Recently retired headmistress Leslin Elliot said that her own tenure benefited from the good fortune of an aggressive Parent/Teachers Association that placed the securing of donations for the school high on its list of priorities.

  A fishing boat at the Annandale foreshore
A fishing boat at the Annandale foreshore

She recalled that a number of donations were made to the school for sports, graduation and prize-giving events by the community’s prominent supermarkets, Paramount and Pepsi. Elliott said that during her tenure, the school had also partnered with a community garment factory to have graduation gowns designed and tailored.

The occasion of the celebration of the school’s fiftieth anniversary in 2013 saw the emergence of a major partnership between the business community and the school. With the material support of the business community the school jubilee celebrations included the distribution of clothing and food hampers to the less fortunate residents of the community.

One giver whom the Annandale community has come to appreciate and respect is ‘Auntie Picky,’ whose expertise in making ‘world-class’ curry has rendered her popular with the staff and students of the school. In 1990, she inherited the business from her mother who had been the regular cook for school events during the 1970s and 1980s. Most residents of the community are familiar with the saying, “Yuh can’t go Annandale School and don’t eat Auntie Picky mango curry”. As a younger person she had watched the erection of the school and felt a sense of satisfaction in donating to the growth and development of an institution that has done so much for Annandale. Her service to the institution extends beyond the trophies which she customarily donates. In her own inimitable way, she has become a counsellor to the students of the institution.

The sense of intimacy between the Annandale business community and its secondary school extends to the rest of the village. Several parents favour having their children attend Annandale Secondary rather than have them receive their secondary education at “a town school.” They all subscribe to the school’s motto – ‘Plan, Work and Play Together.’

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