Cherished community elder Jeremiah Mohabir is a ‘Special Person’
“I used to paddle from Biaboo to come to attend class in the afternoons and go back in the night, but I loved teaching. If I had to live my life over again, I would have been a teacher. It is what I wanted to do from the very beginning,”
By Edison Jefford
Having an undying passion for a particular profession is just the beginning of success; being able to pioneer an institution to ensure that the passion is transported through several generations is guaranteeing success many times over and is the realm of the special ones among us.
One such person is the unassuming Jeremiah Mohabir, who resides at Helena Number 2, Public Road, Mahaica. His sterling contribution to the teaching profession can be considered legendary if viewed in the right perspective. Without exaggeration, he single-handedly founded the Enmore-Hope Government School approximately 40 years ago.
Mohabir was born on September 14, 1921 at La Jeanette, De Hoop, Mahaica, and began his teaching career at the Biaboo Canadian Mission School, up the Mahaica Creek, in 1938, at the tender age of 17.
He has not known another profession since then in an extraordinary journey.
“I used to paddle from Biaboo to come to attend class in the afternoons and go back in the night, but I loved teaching. If I had to live my life over again, I would have been a teacher. It is what I wanted to do from the very beginning,” Mohabir reflected.
From Biaboo, Mohabir moved to the Helena Primary School where he became a Senior Master and Deputy Head Master before pioneering the Enmore-Hope Government School, which he started under bottom houses with the support from volunteers.
“I went to the Swami School to teach, but he said that I had to be a member of his church before I would be able to do so and I told him I couldn’t do that because I was a Christian and I would not sell myself for pieces of silver. After then they called me at Enmore-Hope and asked me if I will take the challenge of establishing a school there,” Mohabir recounted while reclining at home.
He said that pioneering the school there was indeed a challenge because of the conflicts that were persistent at the time. He said that Indians were not going to schools in African communities and vice-versa, which made schools necessary within communities.
“I said I will take up the mantle… the challenge to build the school. I went under ten bottom houses and all along I thought with the purpose and vision of building that school into one of the best.”
Mohabir stated that the institution was built through the ‘Self Help Scheme’.
The outstanding tutor recalled that he used food-packets from Government, hosted matinee shows, school fairs, raffles and house-to-house collections to pay the carpenters, who contributed to constructing the facility after it was moved from bottom houses.
Mohabir indicated that he was convinced more than ever of the dire need for education and guidance when he went to the washroom one day while at Enmore-Hope, and heard a young man singing on the dam near the outdoor lavatory, “he want fuh come kill meh, he want fuh come kill meh” repeatedly.
He said that he deliberately stayed in the toilet until he understood what was happening. Mohabir related that what the young man was singing was actually a code in case someone was coming to thwart a theft operation, which was underway in an adjacent farm.
The former Headmaster said that all that young man was taught to say was “he want fuh kill meh” and it is was then that he (Mohabir) realised what was being imparted into the lives of youths could really make the difference in how they are able to choose between right and wrong.
“That experience really fascinated and inspired me….it inspired me to do excellent work afterward at the Enmore-Hope Government School. I told myself that I will be a teacher of excellence because none of my students will ever become a thief,” Mohabir said emphatically.
“I got lots of support from the people at Enmore in those days. I am extremely grateful for that. It was one of the things that I was really grateful for. I started under bottom houses and I ended up with a staff of over 40 wonderful teachers at Enmore-Hope.”
Mohabir completed his trained teachers’ certification in 1949 and 1964 before retiring in 1978 to take up full-time ministry with the New Testament Church of God. However, his passion was too strong to keep him out of the profession he has known all his life.
In 1986, he was called to give his services to the Bygeval Secondary School at West Mahaicony where he acted as a supernumerary teacher for eight years. Mohabir finally retired from his life-long profession in 1995 at the age of 74. He is now 89 years old.
“My philosophy in teaching is that I believe I have a God-given privilege to teach and train those children that passed through me for the future. If I fail to do my duty well, I will have to answer to my God for that, so I am really committed and dedicated to doing nothing but my best all the time,” the still vibrant Mohabir asserted.
During the time that Mohabir was not part of the teaching system, which was between 1978 and 1986 he spent some time overseas before being offered the post of National Overseer for the New Testament Church of God, which brought him back to Guyana.
He said he was in the United States when he was offered the post. It was not that straightforward, however. Mohabir informed that initially, because of all the foreign missionaries that were in the country at the time, the job was offered to a Trinidadian.
But, according to Mohabir, the late President Forbes Burnham intervened with his renowned expression. The exceptional teacher indicated that Burnham made it clear that “Guyana is for Guyanese” and wanted no foreign individual to take up national offices.
“I was in Tennessee, USA, on my birthday when the telephone rang and I answered and the person said that they wanted me to leave there now and come and take over the position as overseer for the New Testament Church in Guyana. I was shocked,” Mohabir noted.
“Mr Burnham said that Guyana is for Guyanese. He did not want foreigners to come and take over. He said that you have to find Guyanese and that is how I was appointed. I can never forget that. I asked them if they were sure they wanted me because I was so surprised. I told them if they think that I am fit and ready for the position and President Burnham thinks so as well, I will take it up,” he remembered fondly.
During that time, Mohabir facilitated the initiation of 12 Churches across Guyana and has one of the most unblemished records in extending the Body of Christ during his time at the helm of the New Testament Church of God here.
He has held national lectures on varying elements of Christianity throughout the country with the most notable ones being “The Strength of Teaching” and “How to relate to Students” in the Christian context, both of which were acclaimed in his Church.
Mohabir continues to be a leading elder within his community as many would often seek out the experience and wisdom of the former headmaster and Church overseer. He believes that his role in developing lives will not cease until God calls him.