Anna Mahase laid to rest: ‘Dawn has come for her’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday


ANNA Mahase was a magnet, “drawing friends and family together,” her brother Kenneth said in his eulogy of her on May 28,

Family, friends, former students, political figures and colleagues gathered to bid a final farewell to Mahase, former principal of St Augustine Girls’ High School (SAGHS), who died at 91 on May 24.

Her funeral was held at the Aramalaya Presbyterian Church, Tunapuna.

Kenneth Mahase reflected on her life with deep admiration.

Anna Mahase was born in the village of Guaico to Kenneth Mahase Sr, a headmaster and Anna Mahase Sr, a teacher at several Canadian Mission schools. Mahase’s parents instilled in her a commitment to education that she carried throughout her career.

Noting her tomboyish nature, Mahase said, “I suspect my parents were expecting a boy.”

But Mahase stood on the shoulders of her mother who, in 1918, became the first teacher of East Indian descent.

Beginning her teaching journey at SAGHS at 18, Mahase went on to become the youngest principal in Trinidad and Tobago at 28.

Anna Mahase’s daily routine was one of discipline and devotion, according to her brother.

“She read her prayerbook daily, did crossword puzzles from all three major newspapers, and was glued to TTT, of which she was formerly chairman.”

Mahase said his sister prepared her family for her death, often quoting Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, who said, “Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

Mahase, with tears in his eyes and a shaky voice, said the dawn had finally come for his sister.

But she had a light-hearted side.

Mahase said his sister loved cookouts, particularly enjoying crab with garlic, hot pepper and Golden Ray butter. She relished visits to Mayaro and Salybia beaches.

Her home was adorned with family photos, and she had a habit of giving candy to anyone shopping with her.

Mahase said Anna and SAGHS were synonymous.

“Her perfume was as inescapable as her presence and she considered her SAGHS students her daughters. Generations of young girls found in her a friend and mentor.”

Mahase described Anna as a trailblazer, especially after she introduced the first school carnival celebration in 1964, a move that faced significant opposition from church elders and parents.

He recounted how Anna would dance in the Carnival celebrations, much to the dismay of church elders.

“Carnival was the antithesis of Christian values, but she made it part of the cultural diet at SAGHS.”

Former captain of the women’s national hockey team Jocelyn Francois, reflecting on her time at SAGHS, said Mahase was able to look beyond her “rough surface.”

“I couldn’t help but marvel at how she thrust me into my destiny by making me perfect for the bus.”

She recalled Mahase saying “‘It takes a thief to catch a thief,’ as she lamented my miscreant behaviour.”

Francois said Mahase created a haven at SAGHS for her girls.

“She took us and created an environment conducive to learning. Valuable lessons of racial and religious tolerance were taught.”

Francois said Mahase was fearless in protecting “her girls.”

“In one instance, where undue injustice was being inflicted, she went to the girl’s home and threatened her parents with police intervention if the child wasn’t in school the next day.”

The Rev Adrian Sieunarine said Mahase’s impact extended beyond her official duties.

“Anna stands tall amid the giants who formed our national identity before we gained independence.

“The classroom was her home, but national service was her heart.”

Mahase was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold) and Medal of Merit (Gold) for public service.

Ian Nath, Anna’s nephew, expressed the family’s sentiments: “Your footsteps will continue to pave the path for many. Anna had no boundaries, no limitations, just excellence.”

Prof Clement Imbert, Zalayhar Hassanali, widow of late President Noor Hassanali, and former minister in the ministry of finance Vasant Bharath were at the funeral.