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JP Coghlan
The Fire

General Background

As its name suggests, the West Demerara Secondary School is a general secondary school.  This co-educational institution is located on the West Bank of Demerara less than half a mile from the Vreed-en-Hoop Ferry Stelling.  Access to the school is by road and/or the Demerara Harbour Bridge, the speed boat, or the steamer.  Within its environs there are the Malgre Tout Primary School, the Vreed-en-Hoop Primary, and the Vreed-en-Hoop Community High Schools.  The school is located within the Best-Klien Pouderoyen Neighbourhood Democratic Council in Region #3.

Brief History

West Demerara Secondary School was founded in January 1965.  It was then called the Vreed-en-Hoop High School.  It started at the residence of Mrs. Lucelle David at 116 New Road, Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara, with the late Virgil E.H. Forde as the first Headmaster.  The staff comprised of the Headmaster, a Secretary, and a small number of teachers.  Students who were desirous of attending the school for the first time were allowed to take an entrance test before selections could be made.  From then on the students gained admission to the school through the Secondary School Entrance Examination, the Preliminary Certificate and the College of Pre-ceptors Examinations.  In October 1965 the school was transferred from New Road to Shamrack Manor, the residence of the late Captain J.P. Coghlan in Klien Pouderoyen, West Bank Demerara and renamed West Demerara Secondary School.  For more information on J.P. Coghlan, please click here.

Ms. Edris Schwartz, who later became Mrs. Edris London succeeded the late Mr. Forde from September 1965 and she officiated as Headmistress until August 1971.  She was a strict disciplinarian.  She held a degree in West Indian History from the University of the West Indies and a Diploma in Education from the University of Guyana.  She taught West Indian History and excelled in her results.

The General Certificate of Education was written for the first time by students of the school in June 1968.  Some students did extremely well at that examination and were able to gain places at the Bishops' High School and Queen's College to write the 'A' Level examinations.

The junior forms in the school ran from forms 1 to 5.  The subjects taught were English Language, English Literature, French, Spanish, Mathematics, Economics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Botany, History, Geography, Home Economics, Needlework, Technical Drawing, and Agriculture Science.  On more than once occasion the school garden won the coveted first prize for Agriculture month.

The athletic championship was always a big event of the year with West Demerara emerging at the top of inter-school and inter-branch championships.

In September 1971 Mrs. London was transferred to South Georgetown Secondary.  She was succeeded by the late Mr. Virgil Forde as Headmaster for the second time.  It was by his inspiration that he negotiated with the relevant authority and was able to construct a proper playground.  For the first time athletic championships were held on the school grounds in October 1973.  Previously Athletics were held at the Versailles Community Center Ground.  He retired in 1976 and was re-employed until August 1977.  He introduced arts, accounting, and music to the curriculum.

Mr. Fredrick Parris, a graduate from the University of Guyana, succeeded the late Mr. Forde from September 1977 to July 1984.  Mr. Parris was of a quiet disposition and was capable of teaching any subject.  In the absence of any teacher he was to perform in that capacity.  He worked beyond the call of duty to make sure the school ran smoothly and effectively.  He was very instrumental in the formation of the Bible Club, the Debating Society, and the Hindu Society.  The Bible club is the only club that is still in existence.  He wrote the words for the school hymn which was put to music by Mr. Cecil Bovell, Bandmaster of the Guyana Police Band.

Mr. Henry Rahaman acted as Headmaster from September of 1984 to July of 1985.  He held a degree in guidance and counseling from the University of Guyana.  Apart from teaching Social studies, Mr. Rahaman was responsible for career guidance and counseling throughout the school and assisted in maintaining discipline in the school.

In September of 1985, Mr. Harriram, a graduate of the University of Guyana, was appointed Headmaster of West Demerara.  He tried to follow the standard set out by his predecessors.  He went on Whitley Council Leave in September 1991 and proceeded to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Jadeshwar Chand, another graduate from the University of Guyana, acted in the vacancy from October 1991 until August 1992.  He was succeeded by Ms. Desiree Grainger.

This historical 19th century building, because of its location, was familiar for its numerous rallies, political meetings, concerts, among other social activities.  Above all, it was responsible for the education of students for over a quarter of a century until it was destroyed by fire on the 23rd of April, 1993.  For more information on the fire, please click here.  West Demerara Secondary School was temporarily housed at the Vreed-en-Hoop Community High School and the Malgre Tout Primary.

In January of 1999, teachers and students moved from Malgre Tout into the new building which was officially declared open on the 5th of February, 1999 by her excellency the President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, Mrs. Janet Jagan.


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Last modified: 07/17/04