Annual Prize-Giving at Royal College Curepipe
— Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
I had the good fortune to be invited to my alma mater more than half a century after I set foot at the RCC as a student. It was in January 1957 that I sat in that very hall where the annual prize-giving ceremony was being hed on madriers – because it was then under construction – and listened to the welcome speech by the Acting Rector, Mr Camille Nairac.
Good fortune because I got the opportunity to meet several Old Royals, friends, and acquaintances amongst the staff and the invitees. It was a time to remind ourselves that earlier this year we lost three stalwarts of the RCC who I had myself known in those great days: 99-year-old Mr Maureemootoo, who was the usher and was affectionately known as cotoc, Georges Espitalier Noel who was a superb teacher of English and led the drama club, and Daniel Koenig who was a living monument to the French language.
I owe a lot of what I am today to these three fondly remembered gentlemen, as also to so many other teachers. But in particular, I owe my career as a doctor and my continuing interest in biology to Noel Asarapin – who migrated to Australia – and Karl Mulnier. The speciality of these teachers – and what I consider should indeed be the fundamental role of a teacher – was that they fired my imagination and aroused a passion in me for their subjects. They thus made their task and my learning easier – because acquiring knowledge became the fulfillment of a passion.
And I can vouch that if students can only do this much for themselves, namely that along with forging a career path they maintain a sustained pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, the world will be at their doorstep, and their happiness will know no bounds.
The prize winners and the laureates deserve all our congratulations, and also of course the teachers who have contributed to their success as well as the parents who have supported them. But does this mean that those who have not won prizes are less deserving? By no means is this the case: the institution of the prize system, which includes laureates, is meant to set goals and ideal standards towards which all must aspire. For those who were present to share the joy of their friends the winners, the latter should be examples for them to follow.
What they must remember, though – and accept – is that only so many will receive prizes. What is important is to make the effort – and if this is done with commitment and purpose, prize or no prize they will surely succeed. The key to success is to develop the culture of excellence in all things they do – and if they were to continue in this spirit throughout their lives, all doors will open for them. And they in turn will become examples for others to emulate, especially because, as the Rector, Mrs Nabheebucus, in a high-flying speech stressed on how at the RCC they believed in forming a complete person, with a focus on character formation and moral values.
The items of music and singing, and poem recitation performed so well by the students proved the point and, besides, the latter had so many clubs and associations they could be member of to complete their formal education and develop into well-rounded citizens – as Serge Riviere, Old Royal and Professor having taught French for forty-four years, reminded the audience. He no doubt remembered the varied extracurricular activities that we had the possibility of engaging in the 1960s, when Mr Bullen, the newly-arrived Rector from England, encouraged the setting up of such associations and societies. There were the English, French and Chinese Cultural Associations, the Classical Society led by Mrs Brooks (of which I was at one time the secretary), the Debating Society chaired by Mr Gill (Geography teacher), the Philosophical Society, the Photographic Society (I could not afford to join it) and so on.
It was most exciting as much as touching, with more than a tinge of nostalgia, to witness the fidelity of several Old Royals. Serge Riviere cited – recited, rather! – some very evocative lines of Charles Baudelaire, and offered a prize. Mr Bancillon eulogized beauty in a few pithy words. Dr Dawood Oaris and Prem Burton too offered shields in Physics and General Paper respectively. And Rajen Gangoosingh, on behalf of the Old Royals’ Association announced that it would make a cash donation to the setting up of a multimedia room, a project mentioned by Mr Mooloo in his speech as president of the PTA, which would be holding a tombola to raise the necessary funds.
There had been many changes, of course, as was only to be expected. The flooring of the hall was redone, although now the hall looked somewhat small. The building as a whole was in a good state, and cleanliness was visible. We had refreshments in what used to be my old biology laboratory, the first front room facing the Royal Road in the North wing of the building – the one to the right when one looks at the RCC from the front. The stone exterior of the building had been spruced up, so it looked ‘fresh.’
To these reminiscences were added a few thoughts that, it was hoped, would help prepare the students to better face the world, presented to them as a to-do list:
– Be a global citizen: speak many tongues, so that you will be at ease in several different settings.
– Do volunteer work – it adds meaning to life.
– Be good: think, talk, do good. Done everyday that’s 3 ‘goods’ per day, multiply by 365 and if you start now, over a lifetime which is now on an average beyond 70 years that’s over 65000 bits of goodness! You know that according to Newton’s Law to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s in physics: in human relations the reaction can be much more and not necessarily opposite, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain in being good, doing good.
– ‘Want to be’: set your goal, the path will open up.
– Revere your teachers and your parents.
– If you study/make a career abroad: Come back to Mauritius. Or keep in touch.
– Build Mauritius – it’s your future and that of your children; Mauritius is you and yours.
– Get involved. Criticise if you must – but constructively.
– Work hard: don’t chase money, but pursue excellence: perfection and money will inevitably follow.
– Don’t lose hope and heart: put in the right effort and amount of time in all your endeavours, make allowance for the unknown constant k as in mathematics, then accept the result as being your responsibility and yours alone. More importantly: be prepared to bounce back if need be.
– Bond with others — family, friends and society: it keeps you young, prevents disease and premature ageing.
– Eat less – do more exercise.
– Remember always: You are an ambassador – of your country, your profession.
– Never stop learning. Question all the time, everything. Never accept anything without thorough questioning.
– Read widely, take nature walks to soak in its grandeur.
It was indeed an exhilarating experience to be at the RCC so many years down the line. May it long continue to serve the people of Mauritius.