Fri | Sep 22, 2023

Religion has never been used to keep back people

Published:Saturday | May 27, 2023 | 12:15 AM


In the article, ‘Christianity and decolonisation’, columnist Louis Moyston failed in proving his thesis that “The problems of our times, such as lack of unity, a dysfunctional education system, chronic underdevelopment, and poverty are rooted in the use of religion as part of Britain’s civilising process after the 1865 Paul Bogle-led uprising in St Thomas” ( Jamaica Observer, April 20, 2023).

Grappling with an urgent need to educate a large population, especially after Emancipation, the church schools used both systems of education developed by Andrew Bell (1753 - 1832), and Joseph Lancaster (1778-1838).

Moyston’s reflecting “deeper into the past ...” caused him to miss important developments that impacted the political and social conscience of both State and Church in the 1830s-50s. The rise of the Chartist movement (1836-48) by the working class in England demanded, among other things, that the property qualification for becoming a member of parliament (MP) should be abolished. By 1858, the ‘no property’ qualification for MPs (1858 Property Qualification for Members of Parliament Act) was passed. This bill ended the practice by a number of MPs to submit fictitious qualifications in order to be elected. Also, the rise of Christian Socialism that influenced both the clergy and lay people in the second half of the 19th century.

A Jamaica Almanac (1857) report on the curriculum of the Collegiate School in Kingston, “…Particular attention is … paid to modern languages, to classics and mathematics, and to the rules and practice of reading and composition”. As to religion, “The studies of each day commenced with reading portions of the Scriptures and with prayer. No pupil, however, is asked to be present, if intimation to that effect be given either by his parent or guardian. There is no interference with the creed of any pupil.”

Regarding the training of teachers for the elementary schools at the government-operated training institution, “Great care is taken that the students become an efficient class teacher and lecturer by daily practice in the schools of the institution and the close criticism of his efforts, ” and students were admitted “without regard to the religious denomination of the candidate”.

Reviewing copies of The Handbook of Jamaica, published since 1870, shows that no governor of Jamaica used any religion to keep back the people. In fact, the Institute of Jamaica, established in 1879, was “to provide for the reading of papers, delivery of lectures and holding of examinations on subjects connected with literature, science and art; to award premiums for the application of scientific and artistic methods to local Industries… ” ( The Handbook of Jamaica 1884-85, Vol 5, page 147-8). Our dysfunction began in the 1970s-90s.


Mandeville, Manchester