EducationThe young Yolande finished her schooling in Mumbai before moving to Pakistan in 1950. She started teaching in 1954 after graduating from St Joseph’s College. The Dutch Bishop of the time gave her a scholarship to do her MA in Literature from Canada, which she completed in 1957.
FamilyComing from a family well endowed with doctors, her parents had hoped she’d follow suit. But from very early on, she realised her calling as a teacher based on her love for interacting with children. Hence she joined St Patrick’s High School while Father Steven Raymond was principal there. And thereon began her teaching career with this school which lasted for 34 years until the day she retired.
Early CareerShe started teaching, she realised that without an affluent background for support, her sparse salary of Rs420 was making it difficult to make ends meet. So she did a course in shorthand typing and joined Agfa Films as a secretary. However, she was back in the school after a month as she says, “with my tail between my legs” because she found the new job extremely monotonous and missed the daily interaction with her pupils. With guidance and encouragement from Father Raymond, whom Mrs Henderson holds in the greatest esteem, she learned the ropes and excelled in her career. She once reminisced about the time when her supervisor evaluated her English Literature class (the subject she had specialised in) and commented.
LegacyMrs Henderson has observed a deterioration of attitude over time as well. The students of yesteryear were more polite and had a more relaxed lifestyle, she claimed. With the rising trend of tuitions and the added pressure of getting admissions to large, prestigious colleges abroad, students have been deprived of the second, unfortunately less stressed upon, aspect of education — becoming a better human being. She firmly believes the verse, ‘to meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same’ by Rudyard Kipling embodies a quality that is often instilled through sports and other extracurricular activities. Team spirit and confidence can be instilled in students when they are given their chance to shine. Unfortunately, some schools have razed their playing fields in order to beautify their grounds while others don’t even let students perform in school plays without pre-recording it.
Finding humour in the classroomThe dedicated teacher recalled some of the interesting encounters in her classroom. “The tenth class never used to complain to me as other classes would,” she narrated, adding that one day she walked into their classroom and asked them why they never did. “Does nothing trouble you, or am I a monster? I asked,” she said, adding that there was pin drop silence until one boy, Sheryar, told her that she was a monster.
- “I was completely shocked but had to think fast so I asked him to write a 500-word composition telling me why I am a monster and have it on my desk the following morning,” she recalled. “Sure enough, he wrote a hilarious piece pointing out some of my faults, of which I was unaware.”
Views About Education“Education isn’t education anymore,” she lamented, explaining her theory that education is more than ‘book knowledge’; it also involves shaping a student’s personality. Today, schools don’t place as much importance on shaping personalities. Now they focus on schools as a business, she said. They have become commercialised, treating parents as customers, the school administration as salespeople and the students as products.
- Rashid Minhas
- Roland de Souza
Some Interesting Facts About Yolande Henderson
- She joined St Patrick's High School, Karachi while Father Stephen Raymond was principal. Her teaching career with this school lasted for 34 years until the day she retired.
- In a 2013 tribute in the Christian Voice to the late Bishop Anthony Theodore Lobo she eulogised Raymond calling him "an educational visionary and leader." While teaching at St Patrick's she also completed her teacher training.
- Henderson became headmistress of the St Patrick’s "O" Levels section in 1991. Under her, the St Patrick’s "O" Levels section was an exceptional institution with strict discipline, excellent academics, and great extracurricular activities.
- Henderson retired in 2006 because of her failing health. She is remembered as one of the teachers who "focused more on the lessons of life and character-building than the curriculum."
- At an 18 October 2010 school reunion to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of its founding, one of her former students described her as "one of the most well-loved teachers and mentors." Another student, Roland de Souza, described her as "one of the best teachers" he had.
- On 6 May 2011, The Old Patricians (former students of the school) presented the Yolande Henderson Gold Medal to the top student from the Cambridge "O" level section at the closing ceremony of the 150th anniversary of the school.
- On 12 October 2012, the Society of Pakistan English Language Teachers (SPELT) paid tribute to Henderson, for whom it was said that "her students spread across the world are better human beings thanks to her guidance."
- In March 2013, she was asked by The Express Tribune to write a tribute to the late Bishop Anthony Theodore Lobo, a former principal of St Patrick's High School.
DeathVeteran teacher at St Patrick’s School Yolande Henderson passed away on Saturday morning in Karachi.“Mrs Henderson departed from this world this morning, December 5 in Karachi. A sad day for all of us. Please remember her in your prayers,”
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