The Building of The Unity High School Archive
Unity High School was at this point, riding the crest of a wave and celebrating academic success, ministerial support, staff, student and parental satisfaction to a degree that was itself a benchmark point in the history of the school. Dr. Marina had, for the first time since the tenure of Patricia Clague as Principal in the 1970’s, enabled Unity High School to claim, quite rightfully, to be the best and most successful school in Sudan. Although the school managed to struggle on through the tenures of Principals Michael Partington, David Treagust, David Black, William Strath and Barry Birch, the school never really reclaimed the trophy-position that Pat Clague had given to it. That is, until the arrival of Dr. Marina Hitchen. Like Pat, Dr. Marina saw within Unity a potential and a greatness that could, under the right circumstances, have been unstoppable. But that potential and that greatness were at least in part, predicated on its forgotten, dismantled and ignored history and the strivings of those who had built Unity and made it great in its early days.
The unearthing and rebuilding of Unity’s history was very much a part of Dr. Marina’s plan for the future success of the school. In celebrating and acknowledging the work of such people as Bishop Gwynne, AL Collard, Miss Wilson, Christine De Peyer, Miss Hepplestone and Patricia Clague; Dr. Marina hoped to enable the school to reflect not only on its roots in a great period of Sudanese educational history, but also to use that consciousness of its history to drive it forward to even greater success in the 21st century. A part of that plan, as I suggested to her on that evening at the end of October 2010, should be to build an online archive and to begin the process of researching through the schools documentation the life of the school in the years since it was founded.
It was a fascinating and often exciting time. Document after document from the Directors office revealed more and more of the life of the school from its early days as an all girls school and the endless picnics at the palace or at Gordon’s Tree, trips out on the Nile with Mrs Gordon and Mrs Forder, through to the formation of the old girls’ ‘Unity Club’ and the Khartoum Rangers, the students strike of the 1960’s and the struggles of Patricia Clague during possibly the most tumultuous period of Sudanese history in the 1970’s.
One of our early discoveries from all of this research was that Unity High School was not founded in 1902 as is claimed all over the schools letterheads and on the school gates to this day. This myth was propagated it seems by Principal William Strath who for some reason wanted to celebrate a centenary in 2002 that will not in fact happen until 2028.
On the evening of Dr. Marina’s contract termination, as we sat discussing the unchecked immorality and illegal activities of the School Council that had lead to Dr. Marina’s downfall, it became apparent that in my possession for use on the Archive were documents that I had as yet barely looked at, that somehow had a bearing on the authority of the Council in firing Dr. Marina. The documents had been prepared by Principal William Strath some thirteen years earlier and related to the schools Board of Trustees and their ownership, in Trust, of the school. On examination it became immediately clear that something very amiss had taken place in the school in 1995 under the Principal-ship of David Treagust; three years prior to the date of Strath’s documents. Thus that evening with Dr. Marina carried on until well past 4.30am the following morning, in discussion and examination of the documents, interrupted by constant bursts of incredulity at the audacity of the criminals (members of the School Council) that had clearly and blatantly forged, lied and cheated their way into the ownership of Unity High School. The Archive went on and more and more documents relating to the theft of the school surfaced, though none were, at that point published to the Archive.
The Unity High School Archive was always meant to be a celebration not only of the great things that had been achieved during the history of the school, but also the struggles that had taken place over the years to ensure the schools’ survival in the face of overwhelming and often difficult and unpredictable circumstances – Unity High School has had more than its fair share of these. As a history project, the Archive was an incredible success. Not only did it bring to life for the students and staff the personalities that had walked the classrooms and the offices of the school in previous decades, but it also became a living history, reporting and documenting every event as it occurred during the school year. The students loved it and were en masse, checking in to see the photographs and videos of themselves and their friends on a daily basis. Whole classes of them were logging in given a few minutes free reign at the end of a lesson. The Archive became a central part of the life of the school. But as the end of the academic year loomed, it became very clear that as a project it could not remain silent on the injustices that existed at the heart of the regime that controlled the school. Taken offline by the criminal Director Robert Boulos when it finally started to report on the corruption of the schools’ governing body, the Archive continued to collect and document the evidence of the crimes that had been perpetrated in 1995 and that were still going on. The battle for the soul of Unity High School was, by this time, well underway and behind the scenes many people were working hard to have the school restored to its former glory and the criminals removed from the premises and the life of the school for good.
Whether further documents and photographs will be added to the Archive or not, only time will tell. It no longer operates from within the school, which limits its ability to continue as a living history for the benefit of the students, but it can and will remain active from outside of the school; receiving comments, photographs and the memories of those who have spent a part of their life at Unity High School. The Principal’s Log Books are still in the care of Dr. Marina, awaiting their hand-over to the next Principal, as they are the owned-legacy of the school from one Principal to the next. It is hoped that in due course, Dr. Marina will allow the scanning and posting of Log Book number 4 to this Archive before it returns to Unity, which would bring it up to date. An empty page awaits it.
In her introduction to this Archive, Dr. Marina dedicated it to the founders of the school and all those who fought through difficult times to keep the school open. I would add to that dedication, Dr. Marina’s name. It was her wish, during her tenure as Principal, to emulate the educational success of Patricia Clague – the last great Principal of Unity High School. I think it is safe to say that Dr. Marina has successfully carried the torch that was passed by Pat Clague and almost dropped by so many in the intervening years. Whether that torch, which was lit by Bishop Gwynne so many years ago, will continue to be passed by other Principals, only time will tell. As of this date Unity High School does not have a Principal and its future looks uncertain. The crimes and corruption that this Archive has been so central in uncovering and reporting on are continuing.
Unity High School has come through many difficult times. It is to be hoped that it can come through this also and once more become the school that Bishop Gwynne, Miss Collard and Miss Wilson, Christine De Peyer, Patricia Clague and Dr. Marina Hitchen have worked so hard to realise.
Steve Gooch – 7th July 2011.
Update: Volume 4 of the Principal's Log Book was finally uploaded to the Archive today. This now completes the collection of Log Book entries made since 1902 by the Principals of Unity High School. It is hoped that the Log Book can now be returned to Unity High School, where Mr Richard Wood; the new Principal (from August 2011) would be able to continue recording the day-to-day life of the school for posterity.
Steve Gooch - 2nd April 2012.