By Angel Nuñez
It was not very elaborate nor expensive as it is today, but indeed there were some preparations to go back to school many years ago in San Pedro. The Beginners and Infants I and II would be all too busy trying to get their slates and lead pencils and that was it. There was neither book list nor huge back pack that could fit all the school supplies needed for the first day of classes. A slate was a small rectangular writing tablet kind of like a mini blackboard except that was made of slate. On that slate (see photo) kids learned their A B C and Counting Numbers as well as basic mathematics, spelling, and phonics. Oh yes the children were expected to bring a small bottle with some water and a small piece of cloth to be used in erasing the writings on the slate. If they forgot they would probably be licking the slate or spitting on it to do the erasing and teachers did not like that to occur. It is to be noted that a slate was quite fragile and easily broke if dropped on the floor or used to hit someone during a children’s dispute. At the beginning of classes most children replaced their broken slates which cost 15 cents but had to be purchased in Belize City.
Before the first day of classes moms would be busy sewing short pants for the lower division boys and dresses for the girls. No uniforms were required, but parents did want their children to go properly dressed to school. Long pants were required once a boy entered Standard IV.
As far as school supplies went, students did not purchase any text books because they were all given to the students on a loan basis. Students were expected to keep these books immaculately clean and intact or they would receive a sound lashing. Therefore no schoolbags were even needed as small children took one single exercise book to school and a pencil and eraser. The older children used two exercise books to keep notes and two to write and turn in assignments and home works. The older kids took to school their own nib pens which were a writing tool that was dipped in a small bottle of ink and used to write a few words at a time and then dipped back into the ink. This, as you can imagine, was quite a messy process, but a small piece of blotting paper was used to absorb the excess ink on one’s paper. Later on we saw the arrival of fountain pens which had the quality of storing some ink in a small rubber reservoir.
One of the anticipated fun activities to be carried on the first day of classes was cleaning our desks. The desks would be taken to the beach and children were required to clean them by scrubbing them with pumice stone, or sand paper (if available) or scraping them with a sharp knife or a sharp broken bottle. Once the desks were clean, they were air dried for an hour and then taken back into the classroom ready to receive more messy ink of graffiti from the students.
One of the big anticipations of Back to School activities 25 years ago in San Pedro was knowing the new principal. They would either be Mestizos or Garifunas. The Mestizo principals were generally known as being lax, having favoritism and not enough learning would take place. The Garifunas were known for their hard discipline, hard lashing and, of course, much learning would occur.
Thus my friends, simple but efficient preparations did take place 25 years ago in the preparation of Back to School activities in San Pedro.
25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Chico’s Meat Shop -Pampered Paws -Ambergris Jade -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarius Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush –Richie’s Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery -Rum, Coffee & Cigar House
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