Queen’s College never had any flea infestation

December 2, 2012 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, My Column 

I am angry and not because I like losing my temper. In fact, for years I have tried my utmost to avoid becoming angry, and with good reason. I happened to be sitting in the office of Dr Frank Beckles when my eye happened upon a chart on the wall. That chart showed the effect of anger on the human body. I was shocked.
That chart showed that anger affects the eyes, heart, kidneys, lungs, stomach and just about every major blood vessel. I will not attempt to explain how this happens although the reason is clearly expressed on the chart. Suffice it to say that I try desperately not to get angry. Some people see me going about my ordinary life and they conclude that I have an abundance of patience. Perhaps I do.
However, I did get angry when my alma mater, Queen’s College, was forced to close its doors because of what people at the school claimed was a flea infestation. The school moved to its present location in 1952 and until then, nothing caused it to close its doors except the holidays or when it had to be used for something.
During the disturbances of the early 1960s the British soldiers bivouacked there; that did not close the school. When the people were running riot in the streets in those days that did not close the school. It took the major strikes that shutdown the country to close the doors to that hallowed institution. Now the people who manage the school claim that fleas caused them to close the school and place the children elsewhere.
From my simple knowledge, fleas need a host; they are not known to live away from their hosts for a prolonged period. Surely, the children and the teachers were not the hosts, otherwise Richard Ishmael Secondary School would now have been infected. If indeed there were numerous dogs and cats, then these would have most certainly been disposed of a long time ago. Something else caused the school to be closed.
QC students were the best in the sciences. From the time the teachers opened their mouths to talk about flea infestation the students should have corrected them. This nonsense would not have been peddled. And the teachers who peddled the nonsense about fleas should not be teaching at the school.
What really ticked me off was the reluctance of the administration to even discuss the issue. It was as if there would have been a security breach had they talked about this infestation. Then I heard that Rentokil fumigated the place twice and the ‘fleas’ remained. What were these fleas living on? Where were the hosts?
It must be that Rentokil was only interested in making money and if the teachers said that there were fleas then there were fleas.
However, assuming that these were mutant fleas, how did they get such a foothold on Queen’s College? Was it because this happened to be the physically largest school building in the country? My friend who once rode the East Demerara railroad with me to school, Laurence Clarke, made an interesting observation in the wake of this situation.
He recalled someone from the rich middle class looking at him in his school uniform and contending that Queen’s College had gone to the dogs. Poor black boys had no place there, I suppose. And I, too, was a poor black boy. Laurence holds the third highest position in the World Bank; I am still the poor boy, perhaps not as poor as I was way back then.
Today, given the broadcast about fleas infesting a building without a host, the school has really gone to the dogs.
Today, many of us still have pride in the school. We often left our pressing duties to ensure that the school continues its noble tradition but this time around, people who preside over the decline of the institution now try to keep whatever happens there a state secret.
It must be a secret, because even the students failed to see any flea. Many of us have actually spoken with students who said that there were no fleas in their corner. One wag wants to believe that the so-called infestation is some paranormal activity. The joke is spreading.
A lot of nonsense is happening. For example, I am aware that cleaners empty waste through the windows, something unheard of in my day. We all had pride in that building and its surroundings. The playfield east of the building was never overtaken with vegetation; the groundsmen were there to see that it did not happen.
I knew that school when the focus was on education and sports, because the lecturers knew that a healthy mind needed to be supported by a healthy body. But there was always this principle that the students of Queen’s College could not sell themselves short. That is why the competition could not be any and everybody.
For example, the school had annual competitions with its sister school in Trinidad and Tobago, Queen’s Royal College.  It was during one such competition that our own Terry Holder ran the 200 yards against Wendell Mottley who went on to win an Olympic medal.
The school played football for the Dias Cup against Saint Stanislaus College and cricket against Berbice High School and Saints at the school level. Outside the school it played cricket in the national first, second and third divisions, fielding teams for all.
So serious did the school take its participation that when a class mate of mine, Ian McDavid, took part in an athletic event on the GCC Ground and was beaten in the 400 metres, he was suspended. His photograph had adorned the pages of the national newspapers and the administration saw a QC boy beaten by a fellow from Cambridge Academy.

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