A half century is that perfect time for an educational institution to celebrate itself. SFX Greenherald International School in Dhaka is now fifty years old, with its teachers, students, past students, former teachers and well-wishers joining in the festivities. That is as it should be, for the good reason that Greenherald has played a substantive role in educating the young and preparing them to face the world opening up before them once they have finally stepped beyond the boundaries of the school.
As Greenherald, manned by a dedicated group of missionaries since its inception, traces its journey back to the past in order to understand the significance of its present, it is people like me who delve into the region of memory to come up with their own reflections and recollections. Greenherald for me was the institution where my formal teaching career began in the year 1979. I did not stay beyond that year --- and now that I think back on those times, I tell myself I should have stayed on --- but within those twelve months it was a new, happy world I discovered.
There was Sister Teresa who welcomed me as a teacher (I was at the time preparing for my BA honours exams in English literature at Dhaka University), giving me the responsibility of teaching English language, literature and history to the students of Classes Six and Seven. The branch where I taught the young was on Satmasjid Road --- the school in those days was not the beautiful building which greets us on Asad Avenue these days. The junior section was on Dhanmondi Road 2 while the senior classes were conducted at Asad Avenue, the location of the entire school today.
I recall Mrs Palmer, the venerable lady from whom we collected our salaries at the end of the month. There was Sister John, who at one point replaced Sister Teresa as principal. And who can ever forget Sister Barbara, the wonderful, ever-smiling Irish nun overseeing the junior section as principal? And Sister Imelda, the unforgettable individual for whom educating the young was all? There are the many teachers, precious colleagues I have never forgotten all these years.
Lutfunnessa, a wonderful person with that perennial smile, was always inspiring the students with her explanations of the subject she taught. My friend Shah M. Hasan, the individual responsible for my coming by the job at Greenherald, was one teacher to whom discipline mattered. He was as loved by the students as intimidated by them, for while he was a friend to them he also made it a point to ensure that they did not tamper with the rules of discipline either in class or on the playground.
My colleague Sabir Hussain is yet there, a true veteran who has been a keen participant in the evolution of Greenherald School to where it is today. There are all the other colleagues and friends I remember --- Mansurul Hasib, Mahmudul Khaleque, Shah M. Zaman, Asa Michael Kain and so many others. We have all grown into advanced age and yet memories of our times at Greenherald have sustained the spirit of youth in us.
The school in those days was home to children from various nationalities and especially from the diplomatic community based in Dhaka. Indians, Nepalis, Pakistanis and others formed a significant part of the team. About Bengalis, it gives me immense happiness to inform readers that a good number of them are today reputed personalities in such fields as education, the medical profession and the law. Many of the young we taught in our time are today parents of young people themselves.
As Greenherald observes, in all the joy it can muster, the 50th anniversary of its founding, my links with the school are certainly revived. Sister Asha, the current principal of the school, and all the teachers now serving as the pillars of the institution --- among whom are my younger brother and all the young men and women it has been my privilege to know --- are richly deserving of felicitations.
They have been doing a splendid job, as splendid as that done by those who came before them.
As I recall the times that are no more, I remember in deep respect and sadness the teachers of Greenherald who have passed on to the world beyond this mortal region we inhabit. They must be smiling from up there. They must be celebrating too, in the region of starry luminescence.
Let Greenherald always be symbolic of all the good that education can call forth. Let its future be as bright as its past and present have been.
(Syed Badrul Ahsan, a journalist, has taught the young at schools in a formative phase of his life and career)