Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 26th 2017 Contents life
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In the award-winning movie
Hidden Figures there is a pow-
erful scene where one of the
film’s protagonists, a female
mathematician named Kather-
ine Johnson (played by Taraji P
Henson), had to run half a mile
from her work station just to be
able to use a restroom as there
was none nearer that she could
have used as a coloured woman.
For Hazel-Ann McLean, that sce-
nario is not something that is far-
fetched. When McLean was attend-
ing secondary school, she too had
to travel a long distance just to use
McLean’s reason, however, was
not as a result of racial segregation.
McLean was the lone female student
at the Queen’s Royal College (QRC).
“Oh yes, my walk of shame,”
McLean told the Sunday Guardian
when asked about the difficulties she
faced in doing something simple as
using the bathroom while being the
lone female in an all-boy’s school on
a full-time basis.
McLean had to walk from the
school’s Science Block, which is
near to St Clair Avenue, to use the
restroom at the Teacher’s Lounge lo-
cated inside the North Block, which
is nearer to Hayes Street.
It is approximately 400 metres.
“I had to walk the school’s court-
yard and with boys stopping me to
talk and all I wanted to do was go
to the bathroom. I had a couple
moments. I have a lot of stories
in the book about my walks to the
bathroom. To this day, I am good at
controlling my bladder as a result of
it,” McLean said.
The book McLean is talking about
is A Sparkle of Royal Blue: Memoirs
of the first female student of QRC.
It is currently available on Ama-
zon and has an official launch date
scheduled for May to be held in this
McLean attended QRC, which
boasts alumni such as this coun-
try’s first prime minister Dr Eric
She attended there from 1986 to
McLean originally attended St
Francois Girls’ College where she
successfully completed her Carib-
bean Examination Council (CXC)
examinations. She then applied to
do her General Certificate of Educa-
tion (GCE) Advanced-Level subjects
there and was accepted.
But then something happened
that would change her life.
“I wanted to do physics at Ad-
vanced-Level at St Francois and
I enrolled and I was accepted and
everything, but I was the only girl
that was going to do physics at the
Advanced-Level so there was just
one teacher with me and he had oth-
er classes and they were like, this is
not a good use of resources and of his
time, so they told me that I couldn’t
do physics,” McLean said.
“The term started, I was already
enrolled in St Francois at the Ad-
vanced-Level, I started classes for
the week and then they said, wait,
this is not working out, this is not
making sense having one student
to one teacher.”
McLean went hunting
McLean, however, was not willing
to part ways with physics.
“So I went hunting,” McLean said.
She went to the co-education-
al Polytechnic Institute, but their
classes were already full.
McLean’s mother, Cynthia, then
decided to take her to QRC.
“So mummy took me to QRC. We
already knew there was an arrange-
ment where the (St Joseph) Convent
girls go across the street to St Mary’s
(College), so we were thinking about
trying an arrangement like that with
me and see if I could go just for phys-
ics because QRC and St Francois are
brother and sister school,” McLean
McLean has also previously done
physics lessons on afternoons at
QRC for CXC.
“When we went QRC, they were
like, well, it is not going to work be-
cause our timetable is six-day ro-
tating, so I could not go for physics
every Wednesday or every Tuesday
as the day the classes would be held
would always change every week and
St Francois’ timetable was fixed, so I
would have challenges with schedul-
ing as well as transport between the
two schools,” McLean said.
“So my mother stood with her
hands on her hips and said ‘well,
why can’t she come here full-time’
and everybody froze and then they
looked at each other and went into
a side room and did a little huddle
and then said ‘okay, we will give it
a try’. That was it,” she said.
McLean, only 16 years old at the
time, was excited.
“I was like okay, I want to do
my physics. I didn’t care, I wasn’t
thinking out the whole process about
uniform and bathroom. I was just
like good, I got into a school to do
my physics,” she said.
McLean was accepted to do math-
ematics, chemistry, general paper
and, most importantly, physics at
QRC where Winston Douglas was
the principal at the time.
McLean started school the next
day. “My mother asked me what I
wanted to wear, I purchased a couple
shirt jacks right at the school and
then she took me straight down
town,” McLean said.
“They asked me what I wanted to
wear and I just came up with a skirt
and designed the uniform myself.
And my mum, she can sew, so she
just went and made me a skirt that
same afternoon and I went to school
the next day.”
MEMOIRS OF THE FIRST FEMALE STUDENT OF QRC...
My walk of shame
Hazel-Ann McLean stands in
the courtyard of the Queen’s
Photo courtesy Hazel-Ann McLean
Continues on Page B5
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