On the day she was supposed to return to work as a teacher at the Preysal Secondary School, Suzette Sylvester had her life taken by someone close to her. Now instead of welcoming smiles after a joyous holiday, her colleagues are instead shedding tears.
“Some of our staff members especially in her department are still in tears and they can’t function,” principal of Preysal Government Secondary School Bob Roopnarine said, adding that the horrific incident left an air of sadness and shock in the school’s corridors.
According to police reports, the 48-year-old Literature teacher was discovered on Monday morning bludgeoned to death at her Preysal, Couva home.
It is believed her attacker, a close male relative, used a hammer to take her life.
In reflecting on Sylvester’s career, Roopnarine described her as a person with a heart of gold.
He said this is the reason why her colleagues are now seeking help from the Employee Assistance Programme, “many of them are being counselled as we speak some of them are not coping well.”
In fact, he said they are even refusing to even return to the space they once shared with her on a daily basis.
“Because when you walk in the desk that she sits in is right in front of you and some people are avoiding. I have asked some teachers to come in and they have things to do and they coming and they are making it clear they are not going to work in the staff room. It is a sad moment.”
The impact of the untimely death on Sylvester’s students is no different.
Roopnarine said she was a teacher who always above and beyond for those she was responsible for educating.
He explained that during the COVID-19 lockdowns and even during the recent vacation period she went the extra mile to help her Form Five students.
“Many of the students did not have Internet, she used to allow them to come in small numbers to her home to use her wifi, she used to sit with them, give them food, she used to work with them and guide them, such was the nature of the person.”
“She used to reach out to their hearts as well as their minds,” he added.
The Preysal principal said many students called the school when they heard what happened and some even went to her home.
“Many are saying, and they posted it on Facebook and all of that, that they didn’t lose a teacher, they lost a mother.”
In terms of her personal life, Roopnarine said people at the school knew something was wrong.
“We do know she had some domestic matter, but like everybody else we would hope those things would have sorted themselves out, never do we hope that it would reach to this.”
But although she confided in some about what was taking place, she painted a picture that she was alright and was on top of her game.
“Suzette was strong. Suzette was strong.”
And while her death leaves an emotional void, it has created an educational one as well.
“In terms of coping without her, we are in a crisis.”
He said it is mere months before CSEC examinations and none of the other teachers at the school can pick up the extra workload.
Now he is sending an urgent request to the Ministry of Education to get a replacement.
But although she won’t be there physically to take her students to the finish line, Roopnarine is certain her message to them would be. “Give love, be kind, put a smile on people’s faces and work hard.”
The suspect in her murder is said to have walked into the Chaguanas Police Station and alerted officers to what he had done.
Up to yesterday he remained in police custody.