‘It has instilled in us a sense of decorum, ethics and decency which we need to utilise in order to achieve good citizenship’ – former NGHS student Deanne Butchey
MANY people are familiar with the academic excellence of Naparima Girls’ High School (NGHS) especially as winners of President’s Medals and a respectable number of scholarships. NGHS has also topped extra-curricular competitions.
Few are aware of the humble beginnings of this institution in south Trinidad that has produced young ladies of a very high calibre.
On 12 January 1912, (NGHS) began as a single classroom at the present site of Grant Memorial Presbyterian School on Coffee Streer in San Fernando.
One of the reasons for the school’s establishment was the changing attitude among Christians regarding the early marriage of girls.
It was initially under the direction of Marion Outhit (1912-1916) and later Grace Beattie (1916-1927, 1939-1950). Five years later, in 1917, the school moved to La Pique Hill where it has remained for more than a century.
By 1917 the older girls at the Iere Home were transferred to NGHS. Young ladies in South Trinidad now had the privilege of attending the newly opened NGHS.
Elodie Bissessar, of Claxton Bay, was one of the school’s successful graduates. She attended Mt Allison University and returned to Trinidad where she taught at NGHS during 1934-1939.
Ramabai Espinet in The Swinging Bridge, a novel, referred to NGHS as “La Pastora” and acknowledged its importance. She said, “The competition was steep, especially for prestige schools such as La Pastora. To us, failure meant early marriage and a life bound to a washtub, scrubbing dirty clothes and smelly diapers.”
NGHS has produced its share of worthy graduates, many who attended Canadian Mission Indian schools (later known as Canadian Mission and then Presbyterian primary schools).
NGHS motto: non nobis solum sed ominbus (Not for ourselves only but for others)
Among the graduates of NGHS who attended Rousillac CMI School were Marion Ramraji a registered nurse, and two opticians- Evelyn Lucky and Celestina E Lucky.
Likewise, both Pearl Roopchand and Agnes Ramcharan became medical doctors after graduation from NGHS.
Other renowned alumni included Stella Abidh (first East Indian female doctor in Trinidad and Tobago) who attended NGHS and later St Joseph’s Convent. She would later serve as the government’s Medical Officer in South Trinidad.
NGHS was on a firm footing due to the outstanding work of administrators as Irene Thompson- Kerster, Margaret Scrimgeour, Bessie Bentley and Maude Howell-Dales.
Additionally, the work of teachers such as Agnes Rampersad and Nolo Moottoo proved to be a foundation for the
institution. Rampersad, a leader of TGIT and member of the Girls’ Work Board, served 39 years at NGHS. Mootoo, a graduate of NGHS and Mt Allison University, taught Religious Knowledge classes at NGHS.
NGHS produced a cadre of diligent ladies who contributed to the betterment of T&T in the 20th Century. These include Gladys Gafoor who served as an Industrial Court Judge, Winnifred Sitahal (Social Worker), Catherine Bahadur (former Vice-Principal of St Augustine Girls’ High School), Hilary Lee who became a surgeon and Rev Mary Naimool who was an ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church of T&T.
Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne, sister of former prime minister Patrick Manning, is also among the alumnae. Both Zalayhar Hassanali and Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, wives of two former Presidents, are among the illustrious graduates.
Graduates of NGHS have also rendered meritorious service to the political landscape.
These include Diane Seukeran (former PNM San Fernando West Member of Parliament), Occah Seepaul (former House Speaker), Hazel Rogers-Dick (former mayor of San Fernando) and Joan Yuille-Williams (former minister of community development and gender affairs).
This prestigious school also produced a calibre of scholars during the 1960s. For instance, seven students from the Caribbean were selected for the award of scholarships under the Government of India’s General Scholarship Scheme 1962-1963 for higher studies.
Among the students selected were Veda Seegobin of Naparima College and Sheila Ramoutar from NGHS.
The success of NGHS from the late 1950s to the 1970s was due to the sterling leadership of Principal Beulah Meghu (1926-2004). Beghu was a graduate of Naparima College and Naparima Training College (both Presbyterian institutions).
In 2004, a letter to the editor of the Trinidad Guardian by a former student, Deanne Butchey (nee Gopeesingh) who attended the school during 1972-1979, recalled the work of Meghu. Butchey said, “She initiated a period of recognition, scholarship, schooling, and the general upliftment of women… As students we may have disliked that far-reaching critical eye but it has led to several accomplishments of so many ‘Naps girls’ who have been making important contributions in various fields throughout the world. It has instilled in us a sense of decorum, ethics and decency which we need to utilise in order to achieve good citizenship.”
Dr Jerome Teelucksingh is an activist. He initiated the inaugural observances of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Men and Boys (January 31) and World Day of the Boy Child (May 16). He has made academic presentations at tertiary institutions including Harvard University and Oxford University.
See other articles by Dr Jerome Teelucksingh on AZP News: