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School CP - March 2002

Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 28 March 2002


New school system needed


RETIRING principal of Presentation College, San Fernando, Brother Michael Samuel has raised a number of questions which we think should be addressed in the discussion that must continue on the relevant education needs of this country.

We are not suggesting that therein lies all the answers we need but certainly, as an educator with 42 years' experience, Brother Michael speaks from an instructive vantage point. He has suggested, for example, that the PNM, in what might then have been construed as commendable zeal to broaden its educational impact, might have "failed the system" in that the leaders and shakers then, by refusing the offer from "the denominational schools to develop a better moral code" in schools, were at least "partly responsible for the present breakdown in discipline" among the school population.

According to him, educators "knew what was needed but they were often limited by the politicians" and as for corporal punishment, that "form of punishment was still practised at the college" in accordance with the principal's expressed view that "people need spanking now and again".

Even though Brother Michael went on to warn against "an abuse of such punishment", his views run counter to modern education prescription which holds that corporal punishment is not only archaic, but leads to an early tolerance of violence that becomes both heightened and embedded in the society in later years.

He is, however, on more solid ground when he advocates the construction of more vocational and technical schools to facilitate children who were not able to make full use of the grammar-type education. But he might perhaps have argued for the full and equal inclusion of these technical programmes in the very "grammar schools", there being a crying need in these societies to make the point not only that the labourer is worthy of his hire but that both the life of the hand and the life of the mind have their own validity with the one not being inherently superior to the other.


Trinidad Express, Port of Spain, 30 March 2002

Former Presentation principal:

Separate boys and girls at school

By Cheryl Ann Chaitoo-Bernard
South Bureau


Br Michael Samuel

BR MICHAEL SAMUEL, who retired last week as principal of Presentation College, San Fernando, believes the separation of boys and girls at the secondary level might help end disciplinary problems in schools.

"Not everybody will agree with this but I am totally in favour of segregation," said Samuel, the first Trinidadian to become principal of the college that was set up by the Presentation Order of Ireland in 1948.

On Thursday evening he sat in the Carib Street office he occupied as principal for 27 years and showed no signs that retirement had changed the outspokenness for which he is renowned.

"Look at the denominational schools, with the exception of St Stephen's (College) all are segregated. We have not changed and we have fewer problems," he said.

Samuel said it was a colleague who noted that much of the violence in secondary schools stemmed from boy-girl relationships. And he agreed.

"Throwing them together at an age where they do not even know themselves is not a good thing. At the primary level yes, that is where they will learn to relate to each other, but at the secondary level it is better for them to be apart."

There is also new evidence, said Samuel, to show that co-ed schools might not be the way to go. Psychologists, he said, believe it is a bad idea for males and females to be together at that age: "Because females are performing much better than the males at this age and creating a bad image, and that is a fact."

Samuel said separating boys and girls at school would mean they do not socialise with each other. "Boys will meet girls after school, they do that here."

Samuel said his views regarding corporal punishment are often misunderstood.

"I am not an advocate of corporal punishment but that is how it is coming across. Corporal punishment is one of the many means that can be used to discipline students."

He said just one spanking, can change a pupil's attitude for the better. "But if you hit a child once, twice and see no change you do not continue beating him, you find another way."

Words, he said could often be more violent than a spanking. "You can hit a child and then you hug and everything is all right, you tell them something hurtful or be sarcastic and that may stay with them for life. So it is not what method you use but how you use it."

Samuel has practised all that he preached and the pupils under his care have loved him for it.

"Versatile, caring and understanding, a great leader, an outstanding and extraordinary person." These were just some of the expressions they used to describe Samuel in their 2001 school magazine, A Celebration of the Spirit.

Samuel said as Principal his main aim was to foster a feeling of fellowship at the school, so that each pupil would feel cared for and important. "I feel happy when the boys talk about all they now have, when they don't even want to leave the school."

Samuel said it was during his time as a pupil at the school that he decided to join the Presentation order.

"I think the seed was first sown at about 12 years when I came in here and a Brother asked me what I wanted to become. I told him a doctor and he asked me a doctor of what, whether the spirit or the body.""

He said he made up his mind after hearing a brother at the College speak of the desperate need for local vocations.

Samuel has spent most of his adult life at Presentation. He taught for nine years both at the Chaguanas and San Fernando Colleges, before becoming principal. In all he has spent 42 years as an educator.

As the longest serving Principal in the country, he has seen changes in the education system, and has ideas for improvement.


Though he has retired, Samuel has not cut ties with the school. He said he will continue to teach religious education and philosophy at the school and to participate in their extra-curricular activities.

Samuel has also not ruled out playing a part in the politics of the country. "Probably behind the scenes. I consider myself to be a flexible person and I will consider any invitations that come my way."

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