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Neves Pereira: An obituary. By Cornel DaCosta

Neves Pereira: August 5, 1926 -- February 27, 2009

Obituary: An obituary in fond memory of Neves Pereira: An outstanding teacher and educationalist in Mombasa, Kenya By Cornel DaCosta.

My first meeting with Neves Pereira was memorable. If my memory serves me right, it was in May 1950 when he was a new teacher at the Goan High School, Mombasa, Kenya and I had just joined the school following a six-month visit to Goa and a change of school from the Star of the Sea School, Mombasa. I found the new school pretty daunting and most of the pupils and teachers unfamiliar.

At the whole school assembly one morning, the formidable headmaster Mr Ildefonso de Souza asked if any pupil could play the violin to accompany the daily hymn singing at morning assembly. Without a second thought, I raised my hand and was asked to bring my violin to school next day. Naturally, I had a sleepless night, but next morning, I was beckoned to the front of the school assembly with my violin to accompany the singing of the hymn that I think was 'To Jesus 'Heart All Burning'. Getting started was a bit problematic as I could probably only play in the key of C at that stage but having played a few bars entirely by ear, I restarted and the whole school followed me as though we had done this sort of thing quite regularly! I was then told to bring my violin to school next day but a tall teacher whom I soon discovered was Neves Pereira came up and congratulated me on my performance and suggested we do during the lunch break, a bit of a practice run for next day's hymn---and the rest in term's of so much music in the school is history of course!

Neves Pereira asked for more musicians among the pupils and within about six weeks, we had our first (popular music) school orchestra consisting of three violinists, a pianist, drummer, guitarist, two accordionists, a double base player and two supporting percussionists. Soon we were spending fairly long hours after school practising as an orchestra and this clearly worried my parents as I was definitely struggling at the new school on entirely new subjects like algebra and geometry and I had also missed the entire first half of the school year.

When my father was inclined to stop my involvement in the orchestra. Neves, came to my home and promised that he would help me with algebra and geometry and my father reluctantly agree to let me continue with the school orchestra. Subsequently, Neves ordered brass instruments from the UK and starting from scratch, a full brass band came into being that was the pride of the school, in performing at many public venues, including for the visit of Princess Elisabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on their 1952 visit to Mombasa just prior to her Majesty's ascendency to the British throne. I played an enormous set of cymbals on that day, first with the rest of the school brass band in an open lorry in procession and then from a small base close to the royals. There was also a classical orchestra that was linked to the Mombasa Classical Orchestra made up of many experienced Goan adults and to whom the school hall was offered for weekly practice sessions.

Apart from music, Neves was instrumental in ordering much science apparatus from India and the UK and my year or form 3 were the first to be taught science by him and take General Science at the Cambridge School Certificate Examination in 1954.

That Neves had an insurmountable amount of energy as a teacher was a given and many a pupil will be grateful for his input as a teacher and mentor. This included many excursions and even a visit to learn about the manufacture of Tuskers beer in Mombasa on one occasion.

While on the whole, school discipline was not a problem at the school, one pupil stood out for testing the head teacher's patience to the limit. He was just a very naughty individual, and constantly up to all kinds of mischief and always pretty unpredictable. Even the Head's incessant canning did little to dampen the boy's spirits. At one point, the Head decided to expel the pupil but it was Neves who argued that the school would have failed the pupil if the boy was expelled. In time, the delinquent settled down and successfully completed his schooling certificate examination. This is but one illustration of Neves the educationalist at his best.

In 1953, Neves obtained a place at Leicester University to undertake a three-year science degree course, completed it successfully and returned to Mombasa in 1956. He taught at the school until the end of 1961 but he also found time to start a dance band of his own called Neves Pereira and his Pieces of Eight. In early 1962 he became the Head teacher of the Dr Ribeiro Goan School in Nairobi.

All the records indicate that Neves was outstanding as a teacher and headmaster in Nairobi and that he generated musical activity in much the same way as he did so successfully in Mombasa. I was to learn that he now had a family of his own and that in 1965 he emigrated to Canada and took up residence in Toronto. We also know that he taught science in a secondary school some distance from Toronto but also raised his academic profile with a Masters degree and then a PhD.

It is very likely that Neves would have given a great deal to the pupils in Canada and hopefully, there will be subsequent accounts of his Canadian school, academic and community contributions available to us at a slightly later date.

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