All our heroes

We found our heroes in middle school and high school. It was in the mid and late sixties in a school that hired young men and women with a good education to be teachers and role models. They were the heroes we looked up to and kept forever young in our memories. The Baptist English School was one of a few private schools of the era. Graduates used it in later years as a stepping stone while waiting for a 'real' job in the government sector. But the teachers of our childhood served with a rare devotion, and were so job-satisfied they stayed with the school for ten years and above.

Sometimes we complained that they were harsh with us. But that was pertaining to the PT physical training classes, a regular tradition of the sixties schools. Reflecting on it, if our heroes barked out near military orders in the PT period on Fridays, it was because it was the only way to get slouch-shouldered, unruly students to unslouch and get some much needed exercise for their little bodies.

So, our heroes were strict with us for our own good; our heroes did not fail to show us that they cared for each student soul. At the most unexpected moment, they would distribute sweets to us and remind us we had done a good job. In an age when getting sweets at school was still a big treat. We, in turn, looked up to them, and tried to imitate them, even though weakly. It's been many years since those golden years, but the images remain as fresh as the days they were made. And now, as they take their earthly farewells, how poignantly is the truth of William Blake's poem, The Echoing Green, brought home to us.

All our heroes are leaving. That's how it feels.  With the years passing, we keep losing them one after another. And in their passing, a bit of us passes away too. The memories we made together, the golden years of their shining youth, the days that never seemed to end. Nibu Peseyie was our teacher at the Baptist English School in the 60s and early 70s. A scout leader, he gave many years to the school inspiring young boy scouts with the scouting life. He also taught Social Sciences as well as other subjects. Along with other extremely smart, funny and intelligent young men and women like Vikesel John, Betty and Jimmy Zopianga, George Sailo, Zaku Tsiikru, Harimaya Rai, Sulekha Sen, Peu Meyase, and others,  they lifted the name of the school by inspiring students to give their best. We remember them with gratitude for their dedicated lives.

They gave us their best. In my memory, the image that remains of them is of their energy, their zeal for life, and their unique beauty for they were all young then, and beautiful as only twenty year olds can be beautiful. Flushed with youth and freshness, they were all wonderful hero material, and blessed were we to have come under their tutelage.

In a school where there was much singing, and a mighty school choir, they could all slip into choral roles. In an institution where marching was part of the curriculum, they led by smart example. They were always the first to arrive at school and the last to leave. We learned from them the meaning of serving with your hearts. There never will be their like again.

Go gently , our beloved heroes, into that long road from which none returns. You will not know how much you implanted into young lives because we left it too late to tell you. Because we foolishly thought we still had time. Go gently along that road. You live on in our hearts as our lifelong heroes.