By Raywattie Deonarine
In every community, there is that teacher whom everyone knows and raves about as being “the best”, because that educator goes above and beyond the boundaries of duty and produces the results to back their methods.
If you were to travel to the Essequibo Coast, you would hear about the powers of “Sir Roop” – the retired Headmaster of Abram Zuil Secondary School. Roopchan Persaud, or “Sir Roop”, as he is known, is the very epitome of a good teacher, and is now imparting all that he learned to his three children – Kayshena, Sabrina and Avinash – who are all teachers now.
Sir Roop has been teaching for over 38 years, and, for him, there are two key ingredients that make him different from the rest – the love for his students despite where they sit on the learning spectrum, and the fact that he treats every one of them as though they are his own.
The name Sir Roop has become a household name in the entire Pomeroon–Supenaam Region, as he is known for his humanitarian works and is also considered to be one of the best Mathematics teachers in Region Two. This 60-year-old moulder of character started his teaching career at Riverstown Primary School on the Essequibo Coast when he was only 17 years old. There, he worked his way up the ladder, and slowly started to cement his place as one of the “different” teachers. He moved up, and was later transferred to the secondary division of the school, and started getting the attention of everyone because of his ability to extract excellent results from his students.
Sir Roop has said that, whatever he does, he always insists on discipline and hard work.
After several years of teaching at Riverstown Primary School, Persaud decided to attend the Lillian Dewar College of Education attached to the Tutorial High School in Georgetown. He graduated from that institution in 1985 as a trained secondary school teacher specialising in Mathematics. He not only managed to complete his studies there, but copped excellent grades and was offered a place at the Abram Zuil Secondary School, which is known as one of Essequibo’s top schools.
Three years later, in 1988, Persaud was seconded to the Cummings Lodge Secondary School, where he taught while attending the University of Guyana to read for his degree in Education.
In 1992, Persaud graduated from UG, and returned to continue his teaching career at Abram Zuil Secondary School. Additionally, he obtained a certificate in Administration from the National Centre of Educational Resource Development (NCERD).
“I never left, not basically, because the school was a top school in Region Two, but because I held my students to heart, and worked with them towards learning and understand the difficulties in mathematics. I made them understand and become knowledgeable on the simplest ways to solve a matrix, simultaneous equation, and the list goes on with the difficult topics in mathematics,” he said during an interview with Sunday Times.
Throughout the years, he moved up the command chain, from being an untrained teacher to becoming headmaster of that institution up until he retired in 2015. Though it was mandatory for him to retire at the age of 55, it did not prevent him from tutoring on a private basis, holding classes in the afternoons for students of various schools on the Essequibo Coast.
“Teaching at such a young age was possible at that time. I came from a very poor family, and, as a child, I attended the Riverstown Primary School, which had a secondary department. I then grabbed the opportunity and wrote the Preliminary Certificate Examination and College of Preceptors Examination at the said school. I then made a step upward and wrote the GCE ‘O’ level exam privately, which were extremely successful for me,” he explained when asked how it was possible to start teaching at such a young age.
Sir Roop has devoted his life to helping children to receive quality education, and for them to see themselves empowered in the future endeavours.
“With a hardworking staff at the Abram Zuil Secondary School, it was the first time in history, when I was a headmaster, (that) Abram Zuil achieved first and third position in Guyana in 2011 at CSEC General level,” he said.
He proudly disclosed that he was the headmaster when Abram Zuil Secondary School first became recognised as a top school in Guyana. He added that during his time as the head of the institution, he worked along with his hardworking staff and prompted a group of students to participate at the Regional Science Fair.
“As we worked along with the students, we won the Regional Science Fair competition and we challenged the other schools countrywide. As a team, we worked with the students and won the competition again. I was so happy to know I assisted the science teachers in coaching them, and we moved forward and went internationally. We took part in the competition where we had to travel to England, and walked away with the biggest prize,” Sir Roop added.
Additionally, Sir Roop said that, in 2012, Abram Zuil Secondary School was rated the best school in the Caribbean at the CSEC Examination. He added that, in 2013, his school was graded first in the matriculation rate regionally.
“Apart from that, I was awarded as the best headmaster regionally, and I am proud to say that when I took HM position, our school became a top school regionally in the Caribbean. Science fair and CSEC results were the best results ever since I took leadership, and our school is still motivated to do excellent at the CSEC examination,” he explained.
A good teacher is not necessarily one who gets a child to pass an exam. For example, Sir Roop has observed that some teachers look for the brighter children, and focus their attention on them.
“But you need to go down to the level of the others. You must first find out where the child is, and go down to his/her level and then bring him/her up. You must pay attention to your weaker children, and I think that is the greatest secret in teaching,” he said.
He explained that not everybody has the same ability to learn and focus, and for a teacher to become a good teacher, that teacher must be patient love the children under his/her care, and view them as if they are his/her own children.
“When a child comes to school, he/she might come with an empty stomach from a home that was full of war and quarrel. You have to find out the background of the child. Most children who misbehave in school are those without parents, who were left with a grandparent who can’t control them. I always learn, growing up, that our fingers do not have the same length,” he said.
Sir Roop recalled that he always wanted to become a teacher, and succeeded at it because he loves children. He explained that what kept him in teaching was not because the money was solid, but because he saw children as special commodities to him.
The challenge, though, is getting children to attend school regularly and on time. For instance, Mathematics is often the first subject of the day, or sometimes after lunch, and so when teachers or students arrive late, or go home for lunch and never return, this is the subject that suffers. And Sir Roop believes that this is the reason many students fail the subject at CXC. Sir Roop has said he was fortunate enough to have had good role models as teachers.
Sir Roop is a father of three, all of whom are teachers on the Essequibo Coast. Sir Roop is a role model to his children, since he coaches and encourages them to become the best teachers.