PROFILE OF THE WEEK By Dr. Dhanpaul Narine
Shanwatti (Vijai) Kublall is an American success story. She came from a humble upbringing in Guyana and has proceeded to change lives in New York for the better.
Vijai is driven by the will and determination to succeed; she has become a role model for her family and community and she stands tall in her all-round accomplishments. She has been a teacher for the past 40 years, enabling countless children to realize their ambitions.
How was she able to achieve so much and to blaze a trail both in her homeland and in New York?
Vijai was born in Bara-Bara in Mahaicony River, in Guyana. Her mom is Sheila and her dad is Tamradhuij Budhan. She is the second of eleven children. Vijai attended Karamat Government School from where she earned her Preliminary Certificate Examination. She then went to Cummings Lodge Secondary School. Her favorite subject was English Literature; Shakespeare and Westerns were among her selected readings.
Vijai graduated from High School in 1966. It was around this time that her life would change forever. She saw a handsome young man who also hailed from Mahaicony River. Srad Kublall wanted to know more about this beautiful young lady. They began courting. Srad would visit Vijai by walking for miles on a muddy dam in treacherous terrain and weather.
One evening, after visiting Vijai, he missed a boat ride, and was forced to swim across the river to get home. Love won, and the couple were married on a radiant day in Spring. On April 23, 2018 Srad and Vijai will celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary which is a great achievement.
After marriage, the couple moved to Georgetown and then to Triumph Village. They worked as teachers with the Ministry of Education. It wasn’t long before the children arrived. The marriage has been blessed with four beautiful children, Sunil, Venoid, Manauvaskar and Nirvani.
In 1976, Vijai went to the Cyril Potter College at Turkeyen to be trained as a teacher. The course lasted two years after which she was deployed to Annandale Primary School. Vijai loved her job. She found the children to be attentive and the parents were involved. The children respected the teachers and discipline problems were at a minimum.
In 1987, the family made a move that was life-changing. They left Guyana for the United States. This move came with its own challenges. Vijai became a live-in worker in Long Island in New York. This meant that she could only visit home at weekends. Srad looked after the children and in due course he found a job in the school system.
Vijai then went to work in Manhattan. She commuted daily and was able to be closer to her family. She decided to further her studies so she could teach again. She said, “I was a teacher since I was seventeen. It was the only thing I had ever done. There was a longing to return to the classroom. But in order for me to do this I had to go back to school.”
In September 1992, Vijai enrolled at York College, CUNY. She majored in Psychology and Education. She had to juggle her job with studies and her family. It was not easy but then she was accustomed to making sacrifices and to scale mountains. Vijai applied herself and kept up with the work. The results were astonishing. She was on the Dean’s List in every year of her studies.
What is remarkable is that Sunil and Venoid were in college at the same time with their mom. Sunil was at the New York Institute of Technology and Venoid was at Hunter College. At weekends, Vijai and her sons would go to the library to study. In 1996, she graduated from York College Magna Cum Laude with a perfect GPA of 4.0. She was the Vice-President of the Teacher’s Club at York as well. What a stellar achievement!
Vijai applied to teach and was offered a position at PS 159 in Queens. It had taken several years and considerable sacrifice but her hard work was recognized. She was in the classroom again. Vijai has been at that school for the past 23 years. She started teaching kindergarten and currently teaches a gifted class. In 2000, she graduated from Brooklyn College with her Master’s of Science Degree in Education.
Vijai is a cultured woman with varied interests. She loves to cook and takes a delight in serving others. Traveling is high on her agenda and her favorite place is Kerala in India. She is also impressed by the beauty and intricacies of the Taj Mahal; taking a bath in the Ganges was an unforgettable experience.
Vijai has been inspired by many persons and she is grateful to all of them. Her husband Srad has been a pillar of support and is a leader and teacher in his own right. She thanks him for his love and for encouraging her to pursue her dreams. Her parents too were instrumental in her success as they pushed her to do her best at all times. Then there is the Principal of her school Dr. Monica J. Duncan who is a constant source of inspiration. Dr. Duncan is a leader in education in New York.
As a teacher, Vijai is passionate about education and culture; she would like young people to stay in school and to be close to their culture and tradition. In May 2018, Vijay will be honored by the Jahajee Sisters as a trail-blazer. She has won many awards and has left an indelible impression in community work.
Vijai is a founding member of Guyana Watch and has done outreach for the Mahaicony Humanitarian Group, Project Aim High, and has been actively involved in the construction of a hospital in Mahaicony River. In New York, she is a founder of the Jahajee Sisters and has worked to improve the welfare of women and families for many years. Vijai has also conducted summer camps for children in Jamaica, West Indies.
We are proud of Vijai and her many achievements. She is a wonderful role model that will continue to serve for many more years. We wish her and her family all the best in the future.