President David Granger: Alumni representatives; special invited guests; parents; graduating class of 2017; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:
This is an auspicious year for the Saint Rose’s High School. I congratulate the school first of all on the celebration of its 170th Anniversary this year. When you are one hundred and seventy-years old you would like somebody to cheer for you. I congratulate students also on their graduation. This ceremony signifies for the school, and for students, a significant historical milestone. Those of you who are leaving Saint Rose’s High School do so not only with academic qualifications but also with a proud tradition- a tradition which has shaped and which has been instilled over 170 years. Not many high schools in Guyana can boast such a distinguished record, such a deep culture and as you heard the Principal, such an excellent record of performance. Congratulations!
You have heard me before, I tend to repeat a very well-known aphorism of an Anglican Dean of Great Britain, Dean William Ralph Inge. Dean Inge said, “The proper time to influence the character of a child is about one hundred years before he is born”. These were wise words and what the Dean was trying to say and what I’m sure you understand, is that education is rooted in standards which are inculcated in that child by his or her parents and grandparents and siblings from birth. You can’t wait till you get to Saint Rose’s to be educated. If your parents don’t educate you; if your grandparents don’t educate you; there is not much the school really could do believe me.
The bedrock of education is a system of values and standards upon which that education is established. Education starts at home with grandparents and parents and siblings. It is essential that parents encourage education in the home to promote the standards which support social integration.
Saint Roses High School is the embodiment of a particular system of values and standards. The establishment of this school was part of the post-primary education movement which swept the colony of British Guiana after Emancipation in 1838, but particularly for this school; it was the establishment of the Madeiran Catholic Community after the Portuguese migrants came here in the 1830s.
Saint Roses, as you know, was established by the Ursuline Sisters; a Christian religious order. It was established as a Catholic secondary school on the 31st of August, 1847, that’s your birthday. The patron saint of that school, Saint Rose of Lima, exemplified a life of service. She was a model for the motto which this school has inherited Serviam the Latin word meaning I shall serve.
Saint Roses started as small as small could be, with four students, but by 1869 a three-storey building was erected on Church Street to satisfy the growing demand for secondary education. Guyana schools, of which Saint Rose’s is a good model, are good examples of socially cohesive institutions. They weren’t always like that, schools used to be separated not only on the basis of gender but also on the basis of religion. Some feel that was a good thing, others don’t.
I’m an Anglican myself and growing up at Bartica I can always look out of the school and see Saint John the Baptist Anglican Church, or if I am at church I can look out the window and see Saint John the Baptist Anglican School. When I lived on the Corentyne, I attended the Auchlyne Church of Scotland School; I looked out of the window of the school and see Saint Xavier Presbyterian Church. When I came to Georgetown I went to Comenius Moravian School, the headmaster had to be Moravian; I looked out in the yard, there was a Comenius Moravian Church. Then I went to Sacred Heart school, inside the church, and of course the head of that school was a Catholic nun, but today we have more socially integrated, more inclusive schools.
So Saint Rose’s has become more reintegrated, more inclusive and these schools remind us of the absence of discrimination. We can construct a society with schools like this, built on harmonious relations and it is my view that Saint Rose’s embodies the tradition of social cohesion through education. Education must unite us, not divide us. It must foster a culture in which the many benefit and not just a few. Education must be the basis of providing opportunities for all. As I like to say, ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’.
The social functions of education are to equip students with the skills and standards necessary for success in society. Education in this regard, is not merely a matter of academic qualifications; it is about emancipating the mind from negative attitudes which poison society; attitudes of arrogance; attitudes of anger and attitudes of hatred.
Sometimes you look around the country or the world and you wonder why people behave that way, not because they are uneducated. Why is there so much interpersonal violence, why is there so much violence, so much hatred? And you see there a need for education, not just to cram your heads with knowledge but to develop attitudes to one another.
Education can achieve these ends only if it embraces certain standards; standards which are taught at home, which are reinforced at school and practiced in society. Saint Rose’s has been an embodiment of standards- standards which break down the division of class; of social and ethnic barriers in education. The words Serviam, a Latin word as you know which you see all the time in school means I shall serve. It implies service; it implies that citizens and some of you young adults will soon be citizens who will be voting; you can drive a car, own firearm, but as citizens you will be asked to give back to society by becoming involved in non-governmental organizations and associations which help the school, help your alma mater.
The skills and standards learned here should help you to become law abiding, hardworking citizens. Service to others and don’t forget that word, it’s your school motto. Service to others means becoming the best that you can become so that you can give some of that best to others in society. In a secular sense, Serviam means that your conduct must be reflected first of all in respect. You must serve with respect; respect for yourself; first of all respect yourself; respect for each other, respect for your teachers, respect for elders, respect for property, respect for the environment. If you do not respect yourself; if you do not encourage others to respect you- young men to respect young women, young women to rest themselves; you know what I mean Saint Rose’s – no more YouTube. Is that funny? And second, Serviam means responsibility. You must serve with a sense of responsibility. As you go on to higher education or seek employment you must be ready to assume that responsibility; responsibility for your actions; all your actions have consequences. Everything you do has a consequence; every cause has a consequence, every action has a reaction. Don’t be surprised when you do something and you can’t understand what happened; there is a cause, there is a consequence and the world will be very unkind to you unless you are prepared to accept responsibility for your actions. You play with matches you start a fire you get burnt; you go in the mud you get dirty.
You, the graduates of the class of 2017 have been grounded in the traditions of education in this high school. I urge you to be faithful to the school’s traditions and to its standards. I charge you to become exemplars of the motto, Serviam and that motto is related to the motto of one of the leading military academies in the world and to the Officer Cadet School I attended- “Serve to lead”.
And the motto which was inscribed on the officers badge, written in German “Ich dien” – I serve. The motto of the GDF [Guyana Defence Force] Officer Cadet School, “As I serve Guyana”, so you have chosen correctly to embrace that motto. I, therefore, urge you to be examples of that motto.
I encourage you to identify yourselves as graduates of Saint Rose’s by the quality of the service which you will now render to others in society. You, the graduates of the class of 2017 have been grounded in the high traditions of education, which have been passed on to you by the Ursuline Sisters and by your teachers; people who have upheld the traditions and values of this high school. You have what it takes to succeed, after all, you are graduates of Saint Rose’s. I encourage all of you who are graduating today to be faithful to these traditions and to be upholders of the standards.
I congratulate all of you and wish you happiness and success in life.
May God bless you all!
I thank you.