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Monday 21 October 2019
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Salute to a Georgian – Dr Linda Baboolal

Dr Linda Baboolal
Dr Linda Baboolal

MARCIA RILEY

Part 2 (Part 1 appeared yesterday)

I JOINED the St George’s family two years after Linda. The senior girls always looked out for the new ones. Linda was one who would always greet us with a winning smile.

At St George’s we experienced an unobstructed view of the Northern Range from our classrooms, we felt the warm tropic air of the north-east trades flowing down across the Barataria savannah and through the wire-enclosed classrooms, constantly reminding us that we were students of a tropical island. So it made sense when teachers encouraged us to be prepared to find our place here in the post-colonial era which was about to dawn.

At St George’s, sport, singing and physical education was a way of life. We played a lot and the cadre of teachers helped us to manage teenage dilemmas even as we sought to master the subjects of the curriculum.

The curriculum included grammar school elements like Latin. All the boys did industrial arts and all the girls, home economics. Everyone did general science which included physics, chemistry and biology up to Form 3 and I remember Mrs Richardson challenging those who struggled with physics, “Everyone will do physics, because I do not want an electrician who does not know about electricity or a plumber who does not understand water pressure anywhere near my home. So you will all do science!”

So popular did science become that, contrary to the conventional approaches at that time, the first sixth form was a Science Sixth and Linda was in that form.

Mr Farrell was a very gentle man who spoke softly always. He commanded respect by his dignified bearing, his kind-heartedness and empathy towards students, his firm discipline and sharp intellect. The teachers were always accessible even during breaks, patrolling the corridors; presenting opportunities for student engagement on any matter. They created the feel of a family away from home.

Linda shared with me years after leaving school an experience she had with Mr Farrell’s way of control. Her class wanted to have a party. Always confident, she approached Mr Farrell who gave his consent. Everything was organised.

When the party was about to move into full swing she believed Mr Farrell had a eureka moment as it dawned on him that the boys will be holding the girls to dance. He found Linda and quietly indicated to her that there was to be no dancing. Taken aback, she pleaded, “But you gave permission for the party.” “Yes, but I did not give permission for dancing!”

St George’s gave us an education that fitted us for life. Almost everyone passed the final exam and gained a certificate. And yet everyone had lots of opportunity to play sport, do music with Mr Bailey who was really the industrial arts teacher. He wrote the college song and directed the school choir. Years later a student who became a teacher there, Jean McLean-Campbell, wrote the second verse of the college song.

There was a piano in the hall which students were free to use at intermission, lunch hour and after school. Students were imbued with a desire to serve their country the best way they could as we were kept abreast of political developments at home and abroad. We were encouraged to do well as the colonial era was drawing to a close and well educated and trained nationals would be required to take up the space left by the expatriates. This built an awareness and there was no limit to our aspirations. Linda’s life is an embodiment of the best of St George’s.

St George’s was an experiment for co-education at the secondary level yet the St George’s model was not used for the expanded secondary coeducational system. The missionary single-sex model was and still seems to be the preferred approach even though the students of St George’s did and continue to do extremely well at home and abroad.

The founding teachers and students held values and set standards that challenge students and teachers today. The school has been fortunate over the years to have four principals who were past students who helped keep the tradition for all-round excellence alive.

Linda’s achievements are now legend. She has debunked the notion that a woman has to sacrifice career for family. Soon after graduating from St George’s Linda married and went abroad to study. She not only got her medical degree but also started a family which she lovingly groomed.

Condolences are in order for her husband, children and the rest of her family.

Her formative experiences at St George’s, and the Barataria community which took deep personal interest and pride in the students no doubt contributed to that sense of community which led her to develop her medical practice where she was raised.

It was not surprising to those of us who knew her that she entered the political arena, eventually becoming the chairman of her political party – the People’s National Movement. She served as a senator, a Member of Parliament, a minister of social services and a minister of health. She became president of the Senate, acting as president of the republic on two occasions.

There have been many glowing tributes paid to Linda. They are the fruits of her labour and all well deserved. She fought the dragons faced in a lifetime by drawing that Georgian sword of service and raising the cry every time, “On to victory!” Thank you, Linda. As a Georgian I salute you.

Rest in peace, you served your country well.

Marcia Riley is a former secretary general of the TT National Commission for UNESCO and a Georgian

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Dr Linda Baboolal

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