Built in a rural area in Cunjal, just East of Princes Town the Caledonia E.C. Primary School was the place for many of the children of the village to get their first taste of education. Nestled amongst the sugar cane fields it was the only school for miles around.
Children walked, most of them bare footed, through the tracks and dirt roads to get to school. Some of them with just a copy book rolled up and pushed into one pocket, and their lunch, also rolled up in brown paper and pushed into the other pocket.
Sadly, in 1951, a fire broke out in the school. After the smoke had subsided there was nothing left but cinders. This was a massive blow to the villagers as the notion of rebuilding was far fetched; for their resources and income were very limited. However, for the Muslim community of Realize and Mandingo Roads this was just the sort of opportunity they were waiting for.
It was to be a serious struggle, for at the same time Mr. Lal Mahabir and others were also advocating to have a government school built in the area.
The Muslim Association felt that a denominational school would be able to serve the predominantly Muslim community better. After a series of meetings under the leadership of Mr. Raphic Ali, the president and Mr. Gerald Mohammed, secretary of the Realize and Mandingo Roads Jamaat together with government officials and others involved in the propulsion of education, a mandate was secured by the Muslim community to proceed with plans to erect a school.
The Tackveeyatul Islamic Association (T.I.A.) was approached by the Jamaat to discuss the feasibility of being the denominational school board. Among members of the T.I.A. delegation were Mr. Nur Ghany, Mr. Hashim Mujaffar, Mr. Kamaluddin Mohammed and Mr. Siddique Mustapha. All parties unanimously agreed that the school should be built under the banner of the T.I.A. It would now be the arduous task of locating suitable land and negotiating with the relevant authorities.
A two acre parcel of land was eventually located at the corner of Realize and Mandingo Roads. The land, owned by the Los Larunjos Estate was donated to the T.I.A. Board after some skilful negotiation by Mrs. Andrea Ghany. Building plans were finalized subsequent to several meetings with the relevant government bodies.
A contractor was hired and Mr. Raphic Ali took the onus to oversee the construction. The actual building site was that of an old estate house and barracks. This meant that a considerable amount of old building material, mainly pieces of iron, had to be dug out of the ground. More than twenty of these pieces of iron were dug up, some from a depth of four feet. Those that could not be removed have remained to this day.
Much of the labour was supplied by the villagers both young and old. Those who were fortunate and had transport supplied their vehicles; a truck to supply the boulders, a bull cart to bring dirt to make a level floor as well as to take barrels of water to mix the concrete. Many others gave of their physical strength. There was no heavy machinery to level the ground or mix the concrete so it was all done by hand. They sometimes worked well into the late hours of the day, lighting up flambeaux to assist them at times. It was a labour of love that bore fruit.
Lengua Islamia T.I.A. opened its doors on January 16, 1956. The acting Principal at that time was Mr. Ramjohn Ali. Headmaster as he was called had a staff of five assistant teachers: four males, one female. At the start of classes 238 pupils were enrolled. Some of these first pupils went on to become teachers at the same school and today have retired from the service.
Lengua T.I.A. as it is now called has had a very colourful and rewarding history. Many who have passed through this institution have had fond memories from playing under the almond trees to breaking biche to go and hunt birds or catch fish in a nearby pond. The teachers also have their fair share of fond memories for it has always been a close knit community that extended into the school. To date, many of the teachers still come from the community, there are just a few who come from outside the community.
Academically, Lengua T.I.A. has achieved much, producing persons in all professions. Many competitions have been won, and cultural activities undertaken, the main purpose of erecting a denominational school has not faltered and the Muslim community has continued to grow. More than fifty years after the first building, a new one has been erected not too far from the first location. Many generations have been educated and many more will follow.