The Westindian Community Receives Assistance

My school, Pedro J. Sosa, founded in 1933,
was one of the schools at the center of the
storm of racial persecution by their own
teachers against children of Westindian

The 1946 laws, reinforcing the exclusionary and rejecting policies of the 1941 Constitution, could not be clearer. Schools were a business and Westindians were not at all welcomed as businessmen. Nor were they organized enough to gain the economic power to meet the requirements individually. As I’ve noted before, this was a time when there were no banks and the Banco Nacional was basically off limits to Westindians. At any rate, the $15,000 required to start any business was certainly not available to open any English School.

The investigations called for by the opponents to the rejecting actions of primary and secondary school teachers would uncover the findings of a census of the English schools operating at that time in the areas of the City of Panama known for its Westindian population. Not surprisingly these findings indicated that there were inadequate educational facilities for the total population of children in the province of Panama. That of the 1,175 students attending Westindian English private schools at that moment in history the majority attended schools that were located on the property of some religious organization in the lower economic “barrios.”

More specifically, these barrios or slums were in mostly inner-city areas such as Wachipali, Chorrillo, San Miguel and the newer area of Rio Abajo in the outskirts of the city. These were but where a few of the children rejected by the public schools were able to find some schooling. That meant that in the poorer neighborhoods the private English Schools were lending great assistance to a government that could not afford to provide enough schools to meet the needs of all its children.

During this time Mr. Francisco Sanchez, President of the Panamanian Federation of Parents, wrote a letter to Mr. Manuel C. Celerín, Inspector of Primary Education, in which he lodged a complaint in the name of all parents.

The letter was presented a strong protest over the repeated incidences of racism in the primary schools in the capital city of the country of Panama. The government was then suddenly overwhelmed with a barrage of telegrams and letters of protest against the fact that teachers in the schools had so much power to convert such important educational institutions into centers of hate and racial prejudice. This letter was published, of course, in The Panama Tribune, where it caught the eye and interest of the Westindian community.

The letter triggered editorials from other newspapers which called for the then President of the Republic, Enrique A. Jimenez, to take “strong measures” to put a stop to these perennial outbreaks of racial persecution which were founded on racial and cultural differences and which targeted the children of Antillean parents born in the Republic of Panama. These actions were expressly aimed at preventing these children from being matriculated in the public schools, according to the editorials.

This story continues.

2 responses to “The Westindian Community Receives Assistance

  1. Kyle and Svet Keeton

    My Mom and Dad were teachers in the public school system in America and that is the environment I grew up in.

    The political pressures pushed on teachers was incredible and the push to use teachers influence over many agendas was morally and socially wrong.

    I grew up in a life that my parents were told who to vote for and how high to jump…


  2. Kyle,

    Things haven't changed much since I was a kid in so far as the teachers' role in all of this. I think if the Westindian English schools hadn't been so targeted by the new laws and been forced to close, eventually that would have been the best way for both Westindians and Spanish people to go. The English schools gave a valuable bilingual education to a population of children that really needed it.

    Today, bilingual education in Panama is at a premium and there are many parents who'll pay a high price for their children to acquire knowledge of the English language.