NASSAU, The Bahamas — Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie said, on March 9, 2017, that the renaming of the North Eleuthera Primary School to the Laura L. Anderson Primary School is quite fitting as it commemorates the contributions of a “dedicated educator in our system.”
“This practice is one that was implemented to herald the effective and efficient work of many unsung heroes in our country,” Prime Minister Christie said at the Official Renaming Ceremony at the school in The Bluff, Eleuthera. “It is one way of ensuring that those educators who displayed stellar leadership are forever remembered in the annals of the history of The Bahamas.”
He acknowledged the presence of her family, friends, former colleagues, students and church members who came to endorse the naming of a public building in her honour.
Prime Minister Christie added that Laura Louise Anderson, a daughter of the Bluff, now 99 years old, one of the oldest residents living in the township of The Bluff, was a “teacher extraordinaire” for more than 35 years and an educator all of her life. Present at the event was 104-year-old oldest living native of the settlement Samuel Neely: her brother.
Prime Minister Christie related that the story of Laura L. Anderson began when she was born in The Bluff 1918, a few years after the First World War, “when life was much simpler.”
Her role at this school also began “many moons ago” when the North Eleuthera Primary School was called The Bluff All Age School, he said. Mrs. Anderson was just five years old, he added, when she first attended the All Age School. He was advised that in 1922, and records indicated, she was a stellar student, earning five BJC’s and five GCE’s, which she had to travel to Nassau to take.
Prime Minister Christie noted that Mrs. Anderson began teaching at the school, as a monitor, when she was 12 years old, under Mr. Mervin W. Gibson, from Savannah Sound. She also taught under Principal C.W. Sawyer some years later.
“Ms. Anderson then went on to become a staple in the community by serving as the public librarian, registering births and deaths, for more than 28 years, however she did much more than that during her time at the library,” Prime Minister Christie said. “The library became a homework help centre for many of the children in the community, and Mrs. Anderson would also teach many boys and girls how to read.”
“She was also an active member and leader of the Red Cross, participating in first aid and health lectures and also visiting the sick and the shut ins,” he added. “She also assisted in the collection of old age pension and food stamps for the elderly in the community for more than 12 years.
“This is an extraordinary testimony to community contribution.”
Prime Minister Christie said that he called Bahamians like Mrs. Anderson “pioneering, patriotic and progressive educators.”
“She paved the way for the many teachers who served after her,” he said. “She set a precedent that made it difficult for them to perform at anything but a high level of competence.
“Her dedication to her country and its most valuable resource, our youth, is a testament to her patriotism,” he added. “She went beyond the call of duty to expose them to national educational opportunities.”
The Government of The Bahamas is committed to providing quality education for all of its students, Prime Minister Christie said. The development of children and young people involves education, training and refining social skills, he noted. It is a shared responsibility of the family, the church, schools and civil society, he said.
“In short, all of us are responsible for offering guidance and assistance to our nation’s youth so that they are equipped to become the leaders of tomorrow,” Prime Minister Christie pointed out. “Each generation must prepare the generation that follows for a smooth transition of leadership to occur.
“Persons such as Laura Anderson understood what had to be done to preserve a heritage of excellence, good work ethic and productivity in our nation,” he added. “She epitomizes what it means to be a true nation builder. She understands that it takes hard work and a strong conviction to accomplish your goals.
“I’m therefore, honored to be here today to see her rewarded for her dedication and for her sacrifice.”
Prime Minister Christie stated that Mrs. Anderson had won many awards during her lifetime including the following: a Music Award and General Community Service Award, in 1987; a Medal of Honor from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in 1996; the First National Heroes Award in 2003; and the first National Bahamas Award, he presented to her, for her “spirit of togetherness, for selflessness, and her noteworthy invaluable contribution to the people of The Bahamas.”
To the administrators and teachers, Prime Minister Christie said that he hoped that they were inspired by her “stellar performance” and that they were motivated to continue to support their students who were “Reaching For the Stars,” as their school motto stated.
“You are charged with the task to prepare our students for life in the 21st century,” Prime Minister Christie said. “This is no small feat. The challenges are many, but if you work together, the mountains will seem like molehills.”
“Parents, the Almighty has blessed you with the great responsibility of rearing your children to be productive citizens,” he added. “You must give the love, care and discipline that is necessary to make this a reality. I implore you to cooperate with the teachers as they seek, like you, the best for your children.”
Prime Minister Christie told the students of North Eleuthera Primary School, that that was the last day when they would be referred to in that way. They would be students of the Laura L. Anderson Primary School from that point on and their patron was an educator who cared about the well-being of children and wanted to see them succeed, he said.
“Take your education seriously and always try to do your best — that was her mandate, her commitment,” he said. “Uphold the name of your school — that was also what she stood for — and let it be known as a school where excellence and hard work and discipline is always practiced.”
Prime Minister Christie thanked the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, the Hon. Jerome K. Fitzgerald, the Permanent Secretary, Donella Bodie, the Director of Education, Lionel K. Sands and the personnel of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology for their commitment to the children of our nation.
He acknowledged the Principal, Vernita Thompson, and the administration, teachers and staff for the fine effort expended in organizing that day’s festivities.
“Once again, I am delighted to pay tribute to a legendary educator who facilitated the education of our nation’s children with diligence and perseverance,” he said. “It is therefore left for me, in accordance to all of the powers and privileges and benefits that enable me — on behalf of the people of The Bahamas at this stage in our history — to declare that the North Eleuthera Primary School is now the Laura L. Anderson Primary School.”
By Eric Rose
Bahamas Information Services