The church emerged in the BVI as the most powerful organiztion after the government in the first half of the twentieth century. The Methodist and Anglican denominations were dominant in the provision of education during the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries. Their mandate to provide education for the ex-slaves was strengthened when the Sterling Report of 1835 recommended that the imperial government should give grants for the newly emancipated slaves to the church and not the local legislative
The dominance of the church was mainly in the curriculum taught,
ownership of the buildings and management of the schools. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the local government began to develop a partnership with the churches in the various districts when the Act No 14 of 1890 to enforce elementary education was passed. It made school attendance compulsory for children five to twelve years. Another Act No. 15 of 1890 gave the governor in council power to regulate the salaries of the teachers, to establish a pupil teachers system and to fix standards of examination. These Acts ushered in the beginning of government control of education throughout the Leeward Islands of which the BVI was a presidency(political unit).
A dual system of education between church and state began to develop. It was not until the Education Act 1925 that a legislative base was provided in the B. V. I. The authority of this legislation remained in effect until the Education Act 1955 came into being. The influence of the church was strong in education but it was challenged by the state tand eventually taken over.
The 1940's was a significant period in the struggle between the church and the state for the control of education. It exemplified cooperation and controversy since the church held on tenaciously to the claim of sponsorship. The period signalled the direction which education would take for the next half century. The struggle between the two organizations would end with the state gaining full responsibility for education. The religious influence on education remained firmly entrenched in the education system.
In addition to the religious influence, the church laid the foundation for the creative and performing arts. The various church schools competitions were the forerunners of present day beauty contests, queen shows, recitals, concerts and dramatic prrformances.
The church also exemplified practices which today we call rites of passage activities that are deeply entrenched in our culture. One example is the institution of marriage. The ceremonial ritual has continued with changes according to changes in the" community. The education annual promotion exercises have evolved into modern day graduation exercises.
The resistance against African cultural legacies were reflected in the church culture. Members of the church were forbidden from shouting praises to God or moving their bodies to the music during Sunday worship. The Eurocentric influence was dominant in worship. It represented the missionary zeal which used christianity to force the people of African heritage to adopt to the Eurocentric culture of worship. Out of these clashes an Afro-Caribbean style of worship emerged with a charismatic flavour which is evidence of civic resistance by the blacks.
The church confirmed and supported the sharing spirit which has been a characteristic of B. V. Islanders from pre-emancipation days. The church has reaffirmed and supported civil resistance which became a weapon for B. V. Islanders in civic life. An example is the church's resistance go the Goverment's plans for secondary education in the 1940's.
This resistance is rooted in B. V. Culture although it only surfaces when a leader emerges with the enthusiasm to resist the policies which attempt to submerge their culture. B. V. I.'s current situstion is ripe for civil resistance but there are no leaders with the vision and drive to take up the mantle. Two past leaders in civil resistance-Theodulph Faulkner and Noel Lloyd-have left effective legacies of which we are beneficiaries. What are doing for future generations?
- Dr. Charles H. Wheatley