By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Students of the Belmont Boys’ Secondary RC School, 34A Belmont Circular Road will from September be entering St Francis Boys’ College. The name change follows consultation with the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM), under whose purview the school falls, and stakeholders. Correspondence has been sent to the Ministry of Education (MoE) in 2016 and 2017 about the change.
There are various reasons for the change. First, and most importantly, it seeks to reflect the Catholic identity of the institution, according to the principal, Lucia Reyes-Griffith, and the school’s connection to the parish in Belmont, St Francis of Assisi.
Reyes-Griffith said, “We want to be seen as a flagship Catholic School in Belmont. We don’t want to be seen as a last resort which we are now with parents rushing in last minute claiming to be Catholic and they don’t know it is a Catholic school.”
Another issue with the old name was its similarity to Belmont Secondary, the government school, formerly the Belmont Junior Secondary at 24A Belmont Circular Road. There were mix-ups over the years with staff contending with telephone calls for the government school as well as having to re-direct visitors. Official notices and information have also not been received. Incidents at the government institution were linked to Belmont Boys’ Secondary RC in media reports. “Negative events that happen are attributed to our school and that is what we want to stop in a major way -– the negative publicity.”
Reyes said many people including persons at the MoE seem unaware there were two secondary schools in Belmont. She said announcing the name change was to let Catholics know there is the opportunity for education at another all-boys school. She noted that persons of other Christian faiths try to get into the school in the 20 per cent principals are allowed to accept under the Concordat.
Reyes said, “Many times our own Catholic people are not coming…we want them to know about the availability and to improve and keep the Catholic ethos of the school. Right now, maybe one-third of the school is Catholic and maybe half are practising Catholics.” Masses are held every term and she added this may be the only time some students participate in Mass.
Reyes-Griffith said the school has a rich history and its alumni include the late Archbishop Anthony Pantin (Belmont Intermediate) and his brothers; Bishop Clyde Harvey, David Rudder, retired Justice Melvin Baird, Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, former Port of Spain Mayor Louis Lee Sing, current Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez, and athlete Jehue Gordon.
Responding to a query from the Catholic News about the process to change the name of the school, Chief Executive Officer of the CEBM Sharon Mangroo stated via email, “While the Principal requested approval from the Ministry of Education to change the name, it is really a request for recognition of the name change that is necessary. The request goes to the Permanent Secretary who sends it to the Education Planning Division so that the name can be changed on all the official education documents including those related to examinations and statistical information etc.” She continued, “The school is required to use both names for a period of two years to facilitate the transition. After this, the new name may be used.”
The school was started in 1923 by the Christian Brothers Missionaries and was first known as Belmont Intermediate and later Belmont Boys’ Secondary RC School. Before the change it was the only school under the CEBM which was not a “college”. The others are Presentation College, Chaguanas and San Fernando; St Benedict’s College, La Romaine; Matelot Community College; and the private secondary St Joseph’s College, St Joseph.
On another issue, Reyes-Griffith said the school is working on providing air-conditioning for the Form Four students due to the “unbearable” heat in classrooms. Fans have been ineffective in cooling the atmosphere and made things uncomfortable for staff and students. A past student has offered to assist with the air-conditioning unit.