By Janelle Christie
Beverley Skirvin-Cannigan,anative of Jones Town in Kingston
defied the odds to emerge as an exemplary educator in St Ann.
She is one who has dedicated several years to education without
taking leave or summer breaks with an exception of last
Beverley,the fourth child from the union of Joyce and Thomas
Skirvin, a housewife and shoemaker respectively,grew up with
nine siblings,three brothers and six sisters.
She attended infant school in Jones Town but relocated to
Clarendon to live with her grandparents following an upsurge of
violence in the Kingston community in 1976. While in
Clarendon, she attended the McNie All Age School for one year,
before moving to Philadelphia, St Ann to reside with her
parents, who had moved there.
Beverley Skirvin then stared grade two at the Bamboo Primary
school where she only stayed for one year. She spent the
duration of her primary education at the then, Philadelphia All
Age School. It was at this school, that she sat and passed her
Technical Entrance Exam. Beverley was not afforded the
opportunity of sitting the Common Entrance Exam at that time,
as her birth certificated which was a requirement for enrollment
was destroyed in a fire at her father’s shop. As she remembers it,
after the fire things took a turn for the worse as the shop was the
family’s livelihood and much was lost in the blaze.
Beverley Skirvin-Cannigan recalled the adverse effects of the
devastating fire, “It’s like it (the fire) destroyed us, I remember
eating turned cornmeal for many days, my mother would turn it
with peas, even on Sundays.”
After losing the shop, she says her father had to walk to as far as
Claremont, from Philadelphia, about 15 miles selling slippers to
provide for the family. This brought help from unexpected
places and a nurse who regularly bought shoes from him,
assisted the family by adopting one of her sisters for some time.
During this period Mr Skirvin got another breakthrough and
migrated after getting a farm work ticket.
Things weren’t any easier, as Beverley’s motherwas left with the
responsibility of the children. Monies send by mail from Mr
Skirvin, never reached home.
By this time, 1982, Skirvin had started attending the Holmwood
Technical High School in Manchester. She boarded at a nearby
community until her mother was no longer able to fund
boarding. As a result of this, she started travelling from home in
St Ann to school in Manchester. Her tenure there did not last
due to financial constraint and she was forced to drop out of
High school at the end of the first term in the third form at age
Her dream of becoming a doctor or a nurse didn’t seem possible.
As a Jehovah’s Witness, while at home, Beverley Skirvin
maintained good disciple and the principles and teachings of the
At eighteen years, she got married and was now Beverley
Skirvin-Cannigan. This union later brought two daughters,
Angiene and Abigail Cannigan. However, the marriage only
lasted for seven years. It was around that time that Mrs
Cannigan also left her job as a cashier at Charley’s in Brown’s
It was an encounter with her past principal from the Philadelphia
Primary school, C S Humes, that set Mrs Cannigan back on
track with pursuing an education.
Mrs Cannigan started studies privately and attained a pass in
In her quest for more educational opportunities, Mrs Cannigan
went to the Brown’s Town High School, in St Ann ,and spoke
with then principal, Veronica Archer. Through Mrs Archer, Mrs
Cannigan was placed in a CSEC math class taught by Mr A.
At this time Mrs Cannigan was still financially challenged and
was not able to pay for classes. Mr Robb realized her need and
tutored her at no financial cost, but on the expectation that she
would pass the exam. Mr Robb guided her accordingly and she
was able to pass Mathematics, Human and Social and social
studies at the CSEC level.
She failed to get into the UWI School of Nursing in Kinston as
she was unable to say how her two children would be cared for
during her studies away.
She then took on the job as a library assistant at the Ferncourt
High School. While at Ferncourt she was able to pass CSEC
Integrated Studies and get a feel of teaching.
Although Mr Robb was no longer her teacher, he never stopped
encouraging her. He advised her to use teaching as a stepping
stone to get into nursing. She applied to and entered Moneague
College as a part time student.
Mrs Skirvin-Cannigan attained a Credit Diploma in Primary
Education with advance of science at the completion of her
studies. She also obtained first class honours in Primary
Education at the International University of the Caribbean and
the Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding academic
After college, Mr Cannigan made a “step by faith” and resigned
from her full time job at Ferncourt to take up a four months job
at the Servite Primary School in Brown’s Town in 2004. Mrs
Cannigan says she knew she had the potential to maintain a job
at the school.
She was right and spent most of her time there. During her
career there she has been recognized for her outstanding
achievements in academics and has copped an award for teacher
of the year 2015-2016. Mrs Cannigan was also awarded for her
contribution to education at the recently held CivicCeremony,
held in recognition of some of Jamaica’s unsung heroes, held on
Heroes Day, at the Lawrence Park St Ann’s Bay.
Mrs Cannigan was recently selected from an interview to act as
principal at the Charlton Primary School in Alexandria for eight
months, endingin April of next year. She wishes the Ministry
will recognize her as not only a “principal in the making”, but as
a principal who has much to offer to the development and
growth of the school. Prior to this term of acting she was placed
at The Philadelphia Primary School in the same capacity.
Mrs Cannigan, although not an active member of the church, has
not departed from the teachings that were imparted to her while
growing up. She lives by the biblical mantra “endure under
tribulation, persevere under pressure”~Romans 12:12. Her older
daughters have followed her footstep and have pursued careers
in teaching, while her third daughter, Will-Ann Jackson, is a
student at the Westwood High School.
Mrs Cannigan encourages all young educators to “Think of
education as a science there are negative and positive charges
…use the positive to mold young minds so they can be
functional members of our society and make Jamaica the place
to work, live, and raise families.”