KARACHI: On Saturday, after years of struggle, Mrs Yolande Henderson lost the battle against intestinal cancer. After over 60 years of educating young minds in Pakistan, her loss will be felt deeply not only in academic circles but also by the students whose lives she enriched.
Born in Goa on January 14, 1934, Mrs Henderson was educated in Bombay before moving to Karachi with her family in 1950. She joined St Patrick’s High School in 1954, at the age of 20, after completing her schooling from St Joseph’s College and began her illustrious career as an English literature and language teacher.
At the age of 26, she journeyed to Canada to complete her Master’s in English literature at Laval University on a scholarship. In 2006, she left St Patrick’s due to her failing health but continued to teach tuitions from her home.
Throughout her career, Mrs Henderson tried to make learning a joy instead of a burden and encouraged her students to voice their opinions. Her desire to see students succeed in every aspect of their lives led to her being the driving force behind the school’s extracurricular activities. One such activity that she advocated strongly was the school play.
“Her attention to detail was amazing,” said Ammar Ahmed, a former student who played the lead role in the final production Mrs Henderson directed at St Patrick’s. She took care of everything herself, from the direction to the choir to the production,” he reminisced. Mrs Henderson directed ‘Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish’ in 2005 and made sure that all the students involved in the play gained confidence, something she felt very strongly about. “No matter how small your role was, she made you feel like you were the most wanted person on Earth,” said Ahmed.
“I’ve never won a medal in my life, I’ve never really excelled at anything, except I became a pretty good teacher,” claimed Mrs Henderson but her students will remember her for being much more than a teacher.
“Despite having many students in one class, Mrs Henderson was the only teacher who could make you feel like you were her top priority,” said one of Mrs Henderson’s former students Fatima Anwar. “To me she was much more than a teacher; she was a mother figure who was always there to guide me.”
She will always be my inspiration and will always be remembered, she added.
“She was a teacher in every sense of the word and a godsend of a mother,” said Willie, Mrs Henderson’s son. “She was a mother to all her students, many of whom have called me and said ‘she will live on in us’,” he shared.
I hope I can do justice to her as a teacher and as a son, said Willie, who is also a teacher at St Patricks.
Mrs Henderson’s funeral will be held on Monday, December 7, at the St Anthony’s church in Cantt at 4pm.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 6th, 2015.