175TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MICO, 2011
In celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the Mico we must recall its beginnings and the context of its founding. Without such a backward glance our joy would only be partial and our inspiration for the way forward would be uninformed of the imperatives and mission which brought this institution into being.
The abolition of slavery was in 1838 was signaled and foreshadowed by the introduction of the apprenticeship system in 1834. Part of the preparation for the free society that was to come was provision for the creation of a fee-paying infant and elementary school system for the ex-slaves and their children. That system would be run by Christian Denominations across the Caribbean. In Jamaica, the Denominations involved were the Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, and Moravians. Each of these Denominations would set up their own system of infant and elementary school funded by fees and major inputs from the Negro Education Grant from the Imperial Government in England. The Baptists and Moravians set up their own teachers’ training colleges, Fairfield and Calabar respectively. However, the Denominational school system that was created allowed for Christian but Non-Denominational schools run and funded by the Lady Mico Charity in England also with support from the Negro Education Grant.
Four Mico Institutions were set up to train teachers for the Mico infant and elementary schools across the Caribbean as well as for Denominations that had not established teacher training institutions. One Mico Institution each was established in Antigua, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad. When the Negro Education Grant was phased out in 1846 the Lady Mico Charity closed its institutions in Guyana and Trinidad but continued to fund the training institutions set up in Antigua and Jamaica as well as its elementary schools in St Lucia.
Beginning in Jamaica in 1892 the State System of free elementary schools replaced the fee-paying Denominational system. This was a major education reform. The Lady Mico charity handed over its elementary schools in St Lucia to the State. In 1899 the Charity closed its Training College in Antigua, transferred it students to the College in Kingston and continued to fund this college and sponsored six male students per year from the Leeward Islands. The sponsorship of students from the Leeward Islands was discontinued in 1918 as the Charity resources as depleted by World War 1. Following the closure of Mico in Antigua, Mico in Jamaica continued as a regional centre of teacher education especially for Protestants as the Government College founded in Trinidad in the 1850s was a secular institution. This accounts for the fact that the Cyril Potter College of Education in Guyana is named in honour of an outstanding Guyanese graduate of The Mico in Jamaica.
Note that in 1899 the Baptists closed Calabar Teachers Training College and the Moravians closed Fairfield Teacher Training College. The Mico was the only college in Jamaica that trained male teachers in the nineteenth century that survived and entered the twentieth century. The Mico survived closure in 1846 because it was non-Denominational. It survived closure in 1899 because it was a single-sex male institution. The Mico advanced between the 1930s and 1950s because it diversified its curriculum beyond requirements for teaching at the elementary school level to include subjects that allowed some students to meet university matriculation requirements and to read for bachelor degrees as external students of British Universities. The Mico flourished during the 1960s and 1970s having become coeducational and to meet the increasing demands for teachers as the colony became a sovereign nation.
In celebrating the 175th Anniversary of the Mico we are giving thanks for its survival through changing times. We are also celebrating that despite the changing times the institution has remained true to its founding as a Non-Denominational but Christian institution. We continue to celebrate the Mico as the institution, from its inception, has provided the opportunity for service and upward social mobility to the most able and ambitious children of the mass of the Jamaican society. We give thanks and salute Miconians for all generations since 1836 who have been teachers, community leaders, nation builders and citizens of the world who have left legacies of good in the lives of children and people they served.
Probably, the lesson to be learned going forward from this back glance is that survival in the present and future resides in and depends on remaining anchored to the Rock, Christ Jesus while responding constructively and appropriately to challenges of changing times.
Professor Emeritus the Honourable Errol Miller
Chancellor and Trustee of the Lady Mico Trust