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Few church schools since Independence
published: Tuesday | April 29, 2003

By Billy Hall, Contributor

Constant Spring Hotel, sold to the Franciscan Missionary Sisters in the 1940s as a new location for the Immaculate Conception High School, after their Duke Street location was lost to fire.

CHURCHES IN Jamaica have made a significant contribution to education. This is how it ought to be, for the Bible obligates churches to be much involved in education. This obligation of churches is grounded in the fact that faithful and effective Christian witness depends upon the Bible, which is a book, and so requires literacy for best possible use. How else, but by people getting an education?

But education is not a spiritual gift. No person has ever gone to bed at night, illiterate and the next day became literate. Reading requires patient learning. Education is about formal schooling to develop the mind and exercise the skill of reading. Years of study are necessary to achieve mastery.

The churches then, have a vested interest in education as a tool of evangelisation and social transformation. The assumption that drives the understanding is that educated people have improved, even superior potential for leadership development and witnessing effectiveness.


From the days of slavery in Jamaica, the churches have recognised the challenge but were constrained by law. Under the iniquitous system, teaching a slave to read was forbidden. But once slavery was abolished, the floodgates of opportunity were wide open.

Of course, primary education was the first order of business, but within a dozen years after slavery, the first church high school was founded. In 1850 the Roman Catholic Church established St. George's High School in Kingston. This was the work of the Jesuits, a teaching arm of the Catholic Church.

The Scottish Presbyterians had established the first formal post-primary institution in 1841, for theological students. The Baptists followed closely in 1843. But it was the Catholics who led the way in the establishing of public high schools and they have remained the leaders in this regard, from 1850 to 2000.

Here are the popular names and beginning years of Catholic high schools established during the period under review:

  • St. George's College (1850),Immaculate (1858)
  • Alpha (1888)
  • Mt. Alvernia (1925)
  • Marymount (1935)
  • Holy Childhood (1937)
  • St. Catherine (1948)
  • Holy Trinity (1953)
  • St. Mary's (1955)
  • Campion (1960) and
  • St. Anne's (1973).

Close behind the Catholics (11) are the Anglicans with nine high schools:

  • St. Hugh's (1899)
  • St. Hilda's (1906)
  • DeCarteret (1920)
  • Kingston College (1925)
  • Queen's (1954)
  • Glenmuir (1958)
  • St. Jago (1959)
  • Bishop's (1962) and
  • Black River (1986).

Thus, Roman Catholics and Anglicans account for more than half (20) of the 38 church high schools established in Jamaica between the years 1850 and 2000. During this period only seven other churches have established high schools in Jamaica:

  • United (6)
  • Methodists (3)
  • Baptists (3)
  • Associated Gospel
  • Church of God Jamaica (1)
  • the United Church and Methodists jointly established one and
  • the Quakers established one.

However, to give a more accurate report on the contribution of churches in Jamaica to high school education, the high schools of the Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA) must be accounted for. During the period under review, SDAs established 10 high schools. These are the SDA high schools established in Jamaica during the period under review:

  • Riverside (1907)
  • West Indies College High (1919)
  • Kingsway (1944)
  • Harrison Memorial (1953)
  • May Pen (1954)
  • Willowdene (1962)
  • Portland (1962), Savanna-la-Mar (1967)
  • Pt. Maria (1969)
  • St. Ann's Bay (1972).

The separate listing of these SDA high schools serves to highlight their independent character. They receive no government aid. They exist because of the tremendous commitment of the SDA to education. They fulfil a unique need for youngsters unable to find a place in the traditional, grant-aided church high schools.

An interesting observation about church high schools in Jamaica is that so few have been established subsequent to 1962, Jamaica's year of political independence. Church high schools established since are the following:

  • Savanna-la-Mar(1967)
  • Port Maria (1969)
  • St. Ann's Bay (1972)


  • Edith Dalton-James (1977)
  • Merle Grove (1984)


  • St. Anne's (1973)
  • Anglican (1)
  • Black River (1986)

Since 1963 and closing with the year 2000; from the year following Jamaica's beginning year of political Independence, the churches of Jamaica have established in those 48 years, 10 high schools, apart from all the other schools (primary, vocational, etc.), the churches have pioneered. However, the focus of this presentation is public high schools.

The reason for this focus is that in Jamaica public high schools reflect a bias to middle-class orientation and leadership values. The churches then, by their selection or emphasis on public high schools reflect or reveal their evangelisation strategy.

During the 19th century seven church high schools were established and 41 in the 20th century. However, the most fertile pioneering decades of the last century were in the '40s (7), '50s (11) and '60s (8), which yielded 27 of the 41 church high schools during that century. Significantly, only four church high schools have come into being since 1970, and this works out at three in the '70s, one in the '80s, and none in the '90s.

This raises the question then, of whether churches are moving out of actively providing high school education, for if they are, says Dr. Errol Miller, Professor of Teacher Education at the University of the West Indies, Mona, "then they are minimising their possible impact on long-term social changes, especially for the marginalised groups in society". (Jamaican Society and High Schooling, p.366).

Professor Miller's concern gets at the heart of Christian Theology and strategy, as such, affects education. Therefore, the issue he raises needs to be addressed: Whither churches and high school education?

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