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It will readily be credited that in a scattered community, such as Manaro was up till about 1860, the greatest difficulty was experienced in satisfactorily arranging for the education of the settlers' children. Those who could afford it obtained private teachers, those who had themselves been educated, as far as they were able, imparted their knowledge to their children. In the cases of illiterates, it was almost invariably the case that their children grew up without any education. Teachers were not only hard to get and harder to keep, but they charged very high rates.
The first school of which any
trace is obtainable is hinted at in a locality map prepared in connection with
the design for the Village in 1849. In the same paddock as enclosed the office
and residence of Mr. Lambie, then Commissioner for Crown Lands, a building
marked as a boarding school is noted. It is not known who opened this
establishment, but it appears that about this time a Mr. Rimington, who was
Postmaster, was also conducting a private school. A few years later a school was
opened by a Mr. Taylor in a two-roomed building belonging to a man named Forbes,
and situated where part of Rolfe's Prince of Wales Hotel now is. There were not
many pupils in attendance, but amongst them were James Montague, Reginald and
Henry Dawson, sons of the Police Magistrate, the children of Charles Walters,
then Postmaster, Poundkeeper and Auctioneer, a son of Wilson, the Chief
Constable, and George Snodgrass. When Mr. Taylor left Cooma it was to go out to
Jimenbuen and act as tutor to the children of Mr. Amos Crisp.
COOMA PUBLIC SCHOOL.
A few years after Mr. Taylor's school was started the public school came into existence. The building was commenced on 22nd April. 1863, and was completed almost at once by the contractors, Messrs. Lahiff and Roddan. The contract price was £ 1,038, and the local residents appear to have contributed one-third of this amount.
The building was erected on a site containing one acre, granted by the Government, and this was enlarged in 1908 by the addition of one acre secured from the Trustees of the Dawson Estate. The first teacher was Mr. Edmond Hewison, and the attendance for the first year averaged 45. The nearest other schools at this time were Braidwood and Pambula, opened in 1849, and Bega, opened in 1859.
Cooma is the headquarters of Mr. W. M. West, the Inspector in charge of the schools in the Cooma Inspectorate, an area which takes in a number of schools in the coastal district. Cooma ranks as a fourth class school, those at Adaminaby, Berridale, Jindabyne and Nimmitabel as fifth class. Others in the area rank, some as sixth class, and others as Provisional and Half-time. The Master in charge at Cooma is Mr. F. Ball, B.A.
In addition to the Public Schools throughout the district, a large number of children attend the Convents at Adaminaby, Cooma and Nimmitabel, where, as has elsewhere been stated, excellent scholastic results have been consistently obtained in the many subjects included in the curriculum.
In the Cooma Inspectorate the interest of Mr. Inspector West has created and assisted in the development of the "West Scholarship Scheme."
The scheme consists in the establishment of a perpetually growing Central Fund (with provision for decentralisation when necessary), contributed to by the various school communities in the Cooma-Bega district, democratically organised into school community groups and local leagues, administered by six trustees, holding their positions by virtue of municipal or public office. Each £ 1,000 of the funds forms one Scholarship unit, the annual interest of which, to the extent of £ 52, is allotted to an approved scholar for a period not exceeding five years, to enable him or her to continue at college or University or take up an approved occupation.
The scheme is not restricted to State Schools, and the local organisation for its administration is calculated to provide a basis for wide and useful community action, quite apart from the immediate object of such organisation.
Transcribed by Pattrick Mould, May 2003, from the book "Back to Cooma" Celebrations, Felix Mitchell, 1926, p102