For Fariah Hyatali
This is not a school on a hill, it is a school built within one. On my arrival I was made small against the giant rise of classroom and administrative buildings. The ninety-year old tamarind tree is the legacy of the yard. Currently, the Sarah Morton dormitory of the ancestral cohort of girls is under reconstruction; unlike the rotting wood that collapses the century-old floor, history stretches longer ahead. The Principal’s residence is an uncompromising house, close enough to the students to disseminate discipline, far enough from the city to enjoy the exclusive privilege of natural air-condition’s San Fernando breeze.
I have met Naparima girls in my teenage years before but I took for granted their origin story. I had not seen the straight lines of symmetry as they assemble themselves for morning prayer, their upright backs when they sit on the ground in coordinates of friends, the measure between desk, student, teacher and supreme formality. Most Caribbean children will never attend an institution entirely dedicated to oneness with nature and the development of the mind. Founded in 1912, Naparima Girls High School is built for the destiny of women. It is as if the design of the school is a declaration that “God is a Trini, God is a Woman and her children go to school here!”
There will come a time when the maternal spirits will reckon that a policy for studying science is as much an investment in the future as a policy to study the humanities. I can hear the sounds of Mrs. Roberts perfectionist pan theatre rising up to claim its space through the roofs of the physics, biology and chemistry labs. Already, many of these girls are waking up to the harsh reality that their campus in the clouds is not Trinidad, not Tobago, not most of the Caribbean. The rest of the world reminds them that they are isolated and far apart. These girls may be subject to envy and even ridicule but they learn to humble themselves to bear some of the pain of social inequality and guide the rest of us to the sky so that all dreams take flight.
When these girls return to their communities or mingle with the ‘rest’ of their peers in other uniforms, they are accused of walking with their noses high. They are criticised for being a soulless machine of scholarships and written off as being elitist. All who point fingers have never seen their hard work, dedication and come to terms with the peace made real by the school’s design. But what can other children and teenagers make of those who walk among the clouds at break and lunch time? Perhaps the girls do not look down on anyone else in their city, maybe the height of the Sky Walk and altitude from the highest floor is just a point of view.
A point of view from heaven every child deserves to share.