First opening its doors to students in September 1940, the Savannah Schoolhouse stands as a reminder of Cayman’s educational history.
Currently standing near Savannah Primary School, the one-room schoolhouse is a tiny time capsule of days gone by.
“Before the Savannah Schoolhouse was built, local children attended school at Spotts and neighboring Caswell,” notes a National Trust document on the site.
“The great storm of 1932 destroyed the schoolhouse at Spotts and resulted in the gradual shift of the population towards Newlands, Savannah and Crewe Road. The construction of a local schoolhouse was a major event for the growing community of Savannah.”
The local craftsmen who built the schoolhouse were supervised by head carpenter Will Wallace Bodden, with many materials brought from George Town, and sand transported from Spotts Beach.
Reflecting traditional Caymanian building styles, ironwood posts were used to support the building’s cement walls.
The Trust quotes Mr. Bodden recalling the extreme difficulty of sinking the posts into the hard rock.
“By making a fire on the spot intended to hold a post, and leaving it to burn all night, the dolomite rock was softened making it easier for a freshly sharpened crowbar to penetrate. Using this method, two post holes could be completed each day.”
The Trust notes that the school housed students aged 7-14, with pupils grouped according to their age and ability. The teacher would instruct one group at her desk while the remaining children would work on their exercises.
The Trust also notes that discipline was strict, with punishments ranging from being sent to the corner to being rapped with a switch.
“While learning to read, write and do arithmetic, the children also studied history, geography and science,” the Trust states.
“Religious education was an important part of the curriculum, while ethics covered the values and ideals of truthfulness, honesty, respect and hard work.”
Students also took part in sports, singing, and were responsible for the upkeep of the premises. While the education of most students who attended did not continue past age 14, some students went on to take the Jamaica Local Exam to earn a recognized qualification, and paving the way to further education.
The school was open until 1981 when it was replaced by the modern-day Savannah Primary School. After serving time as a storeroom, it was scheduled to be demolished. However, the National Trust’s Savannah District Committee, established in 1987, decided to restore the schoolhouse, which has allowed it to live on as a reminder of Cayman’s early days. Today, the schoolhouse is not open to visitors but can be viewed from the road, and the site features informational signage.