The Carnegie School of Home Economics…Improving the quality of lives of those seeking a second chance
The Carnegie School of Home Economics as it is now known was essentially birthed in the 19th century when several institutions were set up to educate the younger generation, primarily women. It was formerly known as
the Carnegie Trade School.
History tells us that the Carnegie School of Home Economics was founded by a Scotsman Andrew Carnegie through the Trade Centres for Women of New York, and the main purpose at that time was to have persons who were not academically inclined, trained in various skills and disciplines.
According to facts from a recently published magazine to celebrate Carnegie’s 80th anniversary, a committee spearheaded by Major W. Bain Gray, Ph.D, the then Director of Education, opined that there should be a programme of study which included domestic courses such as Needlework, Cookery, Laundry and Housekeeping for young girls. This recommendation saw the institution being set up to facilitate training. Funding was the responsibility of the Carnegie Board of Trustees and later the United Kingdom Trust Funds.
The first Principal, a British born, Ms. Beatrix Briant, was appointed to administer the operations of the institution and was tasked with ensuring that the venture was a success. The Government made a commitment to assume full financial responsibilities if this were realized. Thanks to her effective management and zeal, government made good on their promise and assumed full responsibility for the school in 1973.
Other principals who bore this mantle were Misses Blackmore and Gunn, both British born, followed by locals Lucille Fraser-Wharton, Magda Pollard, Lynnette Sylvester, Aulene Kilkelly, Roxanne Benjamin-Hoppie, Norma Washington and presently mandated with this task is Mrs. Penelope Harris, whose vision is to broaden the school’s horizon by extending the facilities to the Caribbean and further afield by having the programmes accredited.
During the period 1937 – 1958, the Carnegie Trade School, inclusive of training, made a decision to commercialize its operations by producing custom made ladies’ garments and uniforms for the Government Sector employees. Large scale catering was also undertaken on request. In 1957 the name Trade School for Women was really a misnomer since male cooks, mess men and stewards for local coastal shipping may be trained here by request. Thus the name of the school was changed to the ‘Carnegie School of Home Economics”.
The school also initiated a Home Economics Emergency Training Programme for teachers. Persons were drawn from the three counties – Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice.
Subject to the name change, Carnegie was officially linked to the Ministry of Education. The subject of Domestic Science had been introduced into the curriculum at Orange Walk in Georgetown, Bartica, New Amsterdam, and the department of various Schools in the three counties.
In September 1958, trading at this institution was discontinued. The curriculum was further enhanced with the addition of subjects such as Arithmetic, English, Social Studies, Geography, Art and Craft, Home Management, Food and Nutrition and to a large extent Clothing and Textiles. This was aimed at giving every girl an opportunity to learn all the skills and attitudes necessary for a good home, family and community life.
As a consequence, students at the Government Training College for Teachers received some training for delivering the Domestic Science programme to students, centered largely around the Food Preparation Curriculum. The Principal and Deputy Principal, Misses Kathleen Gunn and Lucille Fraser-Wharton, respectively, were the facilitators and Misses Cicely Phillips and Olga Britton were the tutors. This training was later extended to include persons from both public and private institutions and private citizens. However, the main target groups were students on a full time and later a part time basis. There were some 650 people including men in village groups enjoying this facility.
In 1971, the Carnegie School of Home Economics formalized its Catering Service to give more specialized training in food preparation and service. The public was afforded an opportunity to receive economical and healthy meals of a high standard in a pleasing atmosphere in the training restaurant now called, The Hibiscus Restaurant. Financial and technical assistance were afforded by The Association of Canadian Community College (ACCC) and the Canadian International Development Association (CIDA) to enhance the programme. Until now, Carnegie has continued training in this regard as the institution strives to uphold its motto “We strive for better homes” by providing quality goods and services to all.
In September 2007, the Carnegie School of Home Economics and the Craft Production and Design Division came under one Board of Governors. The Carnegie School of Home Economics had been sharing a few facilities with the Craft Production and Design Division. That unit is currently in the building that is situated at the back of Carnegie School and originally served as the residence of the first principal.
The Craft Institution was established on January 1, 1978 and evolved from the Community Development Division under the Ministry of Co-operatives headed by Desmond Hoyte, S.C., as Minister. Over the years, this Division was sustained by funds provided by Central Government and its own resources through a Revolving Fund. Today this division is solely the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The main objective of the Craft Production and Design is to promote and develop an effective and viable Craft Industry as a meaningful contribution to the economy.
Between 2008 and 2013, Carnegie continued to embrace changes and rose to the challenges of Guyana’s communities. The classroom has been about improving the student’s awareness of values, attitudes and skills needed for individuals, families, communities and generally industries. It has been pointed out that the issues of ‘time tested values, purpose and a sense of valuing one’s self and that of others’ have posed a major challenge in the classroom.
In 2012, there was a shift towards modernizing all the programmes. In this regard, the institution now offers the certificate in Commercial Food preparation and General Cosmetology. It also offers part time courses in interior decoration.
Today, the Carnegie School of Home Economics stands alone as the leading training institution in the Catering and Hospitality Industry in Guyana, effectively training students in Food Preparation and Service. In addition, the students receive training in Food Science, Hotel Management, Marketing and Customer Service, and Front Desk Management, to name a few. The entity also strives to create a student-friendly environment where the priority is to the students, who will in turn deliver quality goods and service as they strive to uphold the motto ‘We strive for better homes’.
Having celebrated 80 years of providing second chances to persons who are desirous of improving their quality of life, the Carnegie School of Home Economics continues to be the leading technical and vocational institution in the areas of Culinary Arts, Craft Production, Garment Construction and Cosmetology.
Fulfilling its mandate to the many communities which it serves with honour, the school is always open to continuously upgrading the economic power of not only young ladies, some of whom were not able to complete the formal learning at secondary institutions, but also to a surprisingly wide cross section of young men who are eagerly trying to develop themselves in the hospitality industry in Guyana and the rest of the world.
Today sitting at the helm of this facility is Mrs. Penelope Harris, the Principal, who has held this post since January 2007. She started as an associate lecturer at the institution in 1994.
Ironically Mrs. Harris’s mother, Mrs. Agatha Hinds, dedicated many years and made significant contributions to the Carnegie School of Home Economics. Now after eight decades of being in existence not much has changed, as a matter of fact there has been significant development of which the current Head now boasts.
According to Mrs. Harris, the school today caters for the needs of learners of a number of age ranges. It provides certification on the level of diplomas and certificates that are accredited by the Ministry of Education’s Accreditation Council.
“The staff of Carnegie School of Home Economics aspires to increase the school’s standards by continuously seeking to upgrade our facilities and programmes to regional and international standards,” Mrs. Harris asserts.
One such major upgrade [to the institution] is the transformation of its programmes into Competency Based Programmes that offer the student certification based on their proficiency within a variety of skill areas. This form of training is a relatively new one to the Caribbean and offers to students learning or acquisition of skills according to their own mental or intellectual pace.
The required end result of the acquisition of skills is certification. Another area of focus for the near future includes the development of skills training at the University of Guyana Tain, Berbice Campus, as well as skills training in the Region Two and Region Nine (Lethem) communities. The Prinicpal’s vision for the Lethem community is one she would like to see off the ground in the very near future, as she emphasized that the community is rapidly growing and has a lot of potential, given its proximity to Brazil.
Speaking of what the school still offers 80 years later, Mrs. Harris said it does not differ from when it first began. Currently, Carnegie offers full-time programmes in Catering and Hospitality, Commercial Food Preparation, Visual Arts, General Cosmetology, Garment Construction and Interior Decoration.
The duration of all full-time programmes ranges between one and two years.
The Catering and Hospitality Programme is designed to cater for adult learners in two major areas; Food and Beverage Service and Food Preparation. The Food Preparation unit is subdivided into BakeShop/Garde Manager and the Hot Meat section. Students complete each area within a six-month period, after which they move on to a new area of study.
Successful completion of the three semesters gives way to attachment within the industry. Students are sent to major hospitality businesses in Guyana to acquire first-hand knowledge and experience in the field. This allows the students to develop a hands-on approach to their work. The successful completion of both in-class training and industry training leads to certification with a Diploma in Catering and Hospitality.
Very soon with the growing demands in the hospitality sector, the school will be placing a lot of emphasis in this area.
So, if you’re thinking of a way to improve the general quality of life or that of your loved one, being a part of the Carnegie School of Home Economics is an option you should consider as it not only equips you with a trade that will see you earning a little extra income, but it can also be a trade that will see brighter smiles on the faces of your loved one at meal time.