Category Archives: English Schools in Panama

Harassment Against the Prohibited Immigrants

The image was taken from a special issue of
The Panama Tribune which highlighted the
achievements of some of the more well known
Westindian English Teachers in our community
during the ’40’s.

With my head resting on the desk sitting beside a classmate I could not confide my most inner feelings to, I closed my eyes trying to blot out the memory of the incident in fifth grade when the teacher had unmercifully torn up my masterpiece of an essay. Continue reading

Taking Refuge at my Grandmother’s Feet

I rather enjoyed washing my
grandmother’s feet not only to
see the completely relaxed look on
her face but to set the ambience for her to
talk about our family.

The emotional scars were becoming fetid by then, and it seemed like there would be no end in sight to the beatings and emotional rejection. Some kind of cure for those childhood physical and emotional ills would almost never come during those years when we most needed to see it. Dreams of being adopted by other families would haunt me so much that the urge to run away was always present. However, the hated days spent in Spanish school would make Teacher Thomas’ Westindian School look more and more enticing, although it was still located not far from where we were living. Continue reading

Teacher’s Lash

When I view this image of an old
Victorian schoolmaster switching
one of his students, I’m reminded of
Teacher Phillips’ Lash. Image courtesy
of The Archivist

My story begins on one of those tropical winter mornings after a night of incessant rains; by morning the day would be clear and sunny. The morning light went by us unperceived, however, and no one in our house remembered to wake us up for school. Continue reading

Going to English School- Again

In this image we see the classroom
in San Miguel English School circa 1935.
Notice the stern looking Schoolmaster in the
back who kept perfect order in his classroom.
Image thanks to

Since I had heard some of the neighborhood Westindian boys talk about
Teacher Thomas’ School, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to attend his, by now, very reputable school since it was right across the street from our house. Apparently, Teacher Thomas had taken over the old Jamaican Society Hall and converted it into his school. It was said that since before the 1920’s old Teacher Thomas had been right there providing education for Black children. I would never, much to my disappointment, however, be able to attend his famous school and to this day it remains a mystery to me why not. Continue reading

Miss Blake’s Balcony School

A traditional penmanship exercise.

Miss Blake’s balcony school would be our first school ever and, although it was run by the grandmotherly figure of Teacher Blake, it fit into the mold of the traditional English Schools of the Panamanian Westindians. The small school was conducted from a second floor balcony which was adjacent to Miss Blake’s one room rental living quarters in a two story wooden building. Continue reading

Childhood Dreams of Seeking Schooling

A little girl enjoys the pleasure of writing
on a Slate Board. We thank our
friends over at Oberlin Heritage Center for the beautiful image.

In those earlier days of Panama City’s barrios we, as children, were facing the repercussions of being part of a cruel heritage of racial segregation both in and out of the United States Panama Canal Zone. These were the years that history tells us were some of the worst for the policy of expulsion of Black Westindian employees out of the Black Canal Zone townships, and for our family, we were especially catching it. Continue reading