By Sandra Ferguson
(The following was produced on behalf of the George Brizan Legacy Committee.)
“George Brizan was a mentor, a guide, an exemplar. You wanted to follow in his footsteps, to be in his ethos.” , Celia Clyne-Edwards, Q.C., attorney-at-law, Island Scholar 1974 , student of his “A” Level Economics class, 1972-1974
“He was more than a subject teacher; he groomed the whole human being; he was concerned about what you did beyond the classroom.”. Richard Duncan, Managing Director, Grenada Co-operative Bank; a former Director-General, Ministry of Finance; (member of the first graduating Class of Institute for Further Education, 1981)
“He was most concerned about the children of ordinary people. He could not stand that children of poor people would be wasting time in school.” – Basil Bonaparte, fellow teacher at GBSS
“Mr Brizan was a people’s person. He spared no effort in looking out for the welfare of farmers.” – George Phillip, Deputy Extension Officer/former head of Agricultural Communications Unit.
“As a Minister, he was always ready and prepared. He took his work seriously and gave the same attention to all of his portfolios.” – Pamela Steele, retired public servant, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and various other ministries.
As Grenada celebrates it 40th anniversary of Independence, it is a fitting time to reflect on the life and legacy of the late George Ignatius Brizan, Grenada’s sixth Prime Minister, who passed away two years ago, on February 18th, 2012.
George Brizan was a nation builder. As an educator, historian, economist, author, politician and minister of government, he applied his intellect and skills assiduously and selflessly in the service of his country.
Evidence of his legacy can be seen in his former students, co-workers and mentees – the many competent women and men, serving Grenada in various fields at home and abroad, whose lives he touched either as a teacher, in his fields of employment or as a mentor, whom he inspired to excellence and service and whom he encouraged and assisted when they were struggling.
There are also his many publications, painstakingly researched and authored, and the enduring programmes that he introduced as a minister of government.
First and foremost, George Brizan was known as an educator par excellence. His teaching career spanned the period 1962 to 1983 during which he taught at the St. Dominic’s R. C. School (1962-1967), the Grenada Boys Secndary School (1974-1980) and the Institute for Further Education (1980-1984).
He was trained as a teacher at the Grenada Teachers’ College (1965-1966).
Mr. Brizan had a profound impact on the many students that he tutored – whether it was at the Grenada Boys Secondary School where he taught Advanced Level Economics and History at all levels of the school; the students of Presentation Boys College and St. David’s (Catholic) Secondary School whom he tutored for free on Saturday mornings since their schools did not have an Economics teacher or the students of the Institute for Further Education that he co-founded with Dr. DeVere Pitt and where he was Deputy Principal.
Reflections of Former Students:
What was so special about “Mr. Brizee” the teacher? He was energetic, enthusiastic and a great motivator of students.
The following summarizes the reflections of some of his former students:
Passion and Enthusiasm: He captured the attention of his students. His classes were lively. He was passionate, enthusiastic and thorough in his delivery.
Application of Theory to Practice: He communicated with great clarity and related the theory to the practical. A student of his first batch of “A” Level Economics students in 1973 remembers that he sent them out to the Food Fair supermarket to price the “basket of goods” so that the class could construct its own Consumer Price Index.
Teaching Life’s Lessons: He had a passion for History and used his classes to bring out life’s lessons. Disciplinarian/Inculcating Values: He was a disciplinarian, a strict but fair teacher who used his teaching as a platform to inculcate values in his students. He preached that “decency and morality mattered”.
Dedication to Excellence: He was dedicated to excellence. In his Economics and History classes he also taught English, correcting punctuation and grammar – “He, she, it WAS!!”
Interested in His Students: He showed great interest in his students, always looking out, particularly for those who were experiencing financial difficulties. He offered encouragement and support, sharing stories of his own humble childhood beginnings in his classes. As Deputy Principal at the Institute for Further Education, he ensured that there were systems` in place to provide assistance to students who had difficulties paying fees for “A” Level exams.
Well-rounded Students: Mr. Brizan held the view that education should produce well-rounded individuals capable of contributing to their society. Thus, at the Institute for Further Education, he encouraged the development of the “soft skills” and the participation by all students in the student life of the institute. He encouraged dialogue, discussions and debates on political, social and economic issues.
Even students whom he did not teach directly came under his “teaching spell”:
“I would deliberately sit at the back of the class while he taught his “A” Level Economics class, mesmerized by his delivery and I learned something about demand and supply.”
“He would be teaching in the adjoining classes and we would be distracted, a group of boys who yearned to have Mr. Brizan as our teacher.”
“Although I was a science student, I attended most of George’s classes in Economics where we participated in discussions on political economics which culminated in the school publication, TSaraka and Maroon.
(To be continued)