It is alleged that, in T&T, the southern wealth resides not so much in oil, but in the human resource. Some say that the southern hospitality cannot be surpassed, and others say there is a "je ne sais quoi" about certain women schooled on a hill named La Pique.Two such women recently distinguished themselves by being honoured as recipients of this year's national awards-Zalayhar Hassanali, the Order of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and Justice Gladys Gafoor, Public Service Medal of Merit (Gold).Both originally from south Trinidad and former students of Naparima Girls' High School, they have blossomed into glorious national exemplars.
Hassanali's life has been painstakingly outlined by Brinsley Samaroo, Yvonne Teelucksingh and Kenneth Ramchand in a publication entitled Zalayhar, Life of a First Lady. Quotes from this book capture the character of the lady that she has become over the years, dating back to her years at Naparima Girls' and even before:"In Zalayhar, we discovered an emotionally strong, pragmatic woman. She is often busy but she is always serene. Under pressure she does not lose her pleasant demeanour and no matter what the provocation, her patience ever breaks," and excerpt of the book reads.Hassanali was among the many Naparima Girls' graduates who stayed at the Sarah Morton Dormitory during the school year. She remembers this time as a trying one, since she missed home and the luxury of home-cooked meals.She steeled herself by the reminder that hers was a privilege to attend a prestigious school. Somehow she knew even at that young age that the educational opportunity should be maximised. A Muslim girl attending a Presbyterian school, she participated fully in Christian communal prayers not ever losing her steadfast faith in her own Islamic faith.She applied a discipline, her own family values as well as those of the school and an appreciation of learning to all her encounters at school. Her school friends remember her as focused, meticulous, fastidious and proper.Even to this day some of the younger generation of Naps graduates and associates bear in mind her insistence on standards and protocol when it comes to school ceremonies and functions which she often attends.In the minds of the Naparima family, "Zalay" is a "steel magnolia" of whom they are all proud. One who is devoted to her volunteer work represents the school's motto: non nobis solum sed omnibus (not for ourselves only but for all).
Justice Gladys Gafoor
One of the characteristics of a successful school is the ability and capacity to appreciate the diversity of people who comprise its population. Such diversity is the basis of the richness of our human capital. Justice Gladys Gafoor lived in San Fernando, Cipero Street to be exact, and graduated from San Fernando Government School with a scholarship to Naparima Girls..Always focused and goal-oriented she subsequently travelled to England to study law. There she met and married the love of her life, Anthony, also from the "legal" world.As a young girl, she hosted many birthday parties and encouraged her shy friends to socialise and enjoy themselves. Her friends describe her as one who loves life and a darling of a person. To know her well is to understand that all through her life there is one facet of her value system that has remained constant and about which she remains consistent.Perhaps it was because she was brought up in a strict home with a father who was a catechist in the Presbyterian church. Gafoor, according to those who are close to her, has no tolerance for dishonesty. Her need to voice her opinion whether or not it hurts is testimony to her belief that even in one's response to a situation one must be honest and express one's true opinion.As a young girl growing up in San Fernando, her sharp brain enabled her to mischievously outwit elders who attempted to exert too much control. It is quite possible that even today this sharpness and her value system have remained with her as she served as judge in the Industrial Court and headed the Commission of Enquiry into the Operations and Delivery of Public Health care Services in this country.