Meet Cherryll Birchwood Uzoruo: The Queen of Tobago Drama
  Nerissa Hosein
February 2019

Recently I had the pleasure of doing an interview with the vivacious Cherryll Birchwood Uzoruo. It was such a refreshing, light and informative conversation that I almost forgot I was doing an interview! Cherryll was pleasant and endearing and the conversation was so easy.

Cherryll was born and raised in Tobago. After graduating from Bishops High School in Tobago, she knew that she had to dream big and pursue it. At the tender age of 20 she left her little island to further her education and that’s exactly what she did! She graduated from the University of Winnipeg, Canada in 1979 with a double major in English and Physical Education, Recreation and Athletic Studies as well as a Degree in Education. She then pursued a two-year Master of Education degree and in 1981, graduated from the University of Manitoba with a double major in Education: in Cross Cultural and International Studies in Education and Educational Foundations and Administration.

In 1981 she returned to Tobago determined to give back and make a change in the education system. Her first teaching job was at Signal Hill Comprehensive School.  It was an eye-opener for sure. The boys outnumbered the girls and when it came to English they were well behind their level. This disheartened the young teacher whose love for these kids and her craft made her determined that no child would be left behind. But she knew that dealing with boys could be tricky so she started to invent new ways to be creative and help these children learn.

She began using Theatre and Drama to peak their interest and get them to become more confident. She battled illiteracy with simple prose, some of which she would make up on her own. She knew many of these children were not ready for Shakespeare so she started slowly but surely building their confidence and placing a light in their spirit that was not there before. She gradually won over their hearts little by little and gently allowed them to become their own people. Cherryll was so good with these children that she became known in the school as the “Boys Specialist.”

It was while teaching here that she put on her first drama production for the PTA. Many thought that the people of Tobago had no time for drama, but she was adamant to teach her kids that drama was a form of freedom of expression, and that it could also be a profitable career path. Her first play at the school was a success and that fueled her even more to push the boundaries. She went on to take part with her school in the Secondary Schools Drama Festivals and they made it to the finals in their first entry! It was this drive and determination that Drama was an important part of learning and should be part of Tobago, that led Cherryll to create the Tobago Secondary Schools Drama Festival.

From that point on, Cherryll continued to be a pioneer in the Drama field as well as an Outstanding and dedicated teacher. In 2003 she was the Trinidad and Tobago Teacher of the Year. This award holds a very special place in her heart.

She is also a founding member of the Tobago Heritage Committee. After over 20 years of teaching she went on to become the Principal of Goodwood High School, all the while being an important and dedicated member of the Drama festival. She even started writing her own plays and in 2016 was inducted into the Tobago Literary Hall of Fame for play writing and Drama at the Tobago World Festival. In 2018 she was also awarded the Best Actress Award for her Best Village folk play.

Cherryll has also written for magazines and newspapers such as Newsday and the Trinidad Guardian. She has served as a judge for Best Village competitions and calypso competitions. She has mentored many students, teachers and colleagues over the years.

This article truly only names a few of the many accomplishments of Mrs. Cherryll Birchwood Uzoruo. She is also a proud wife and mother with a thriving family. And while the accomplishments may be too many to list what I can say is that in my short conversation with her, she exuded charisma and pride in her nationality and her endeavors. Her biggest joy is that she was able to revive the Drama field on her home soil and make it into such a global success. She is proud of all her students and their accomplishments and believes with all her heart that the world of Drama and Art is an important part of every individual. 

By: Nerissa Hosein | FEATURES | February 2019

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