Seychelles is mourning and remembering one of its beloved daughters, who was a teacher and an ardent protector and defender of children and their rights; former First Lady Geva Rene, née Adam.
Aged 90, Rene passed away on Thursday afternoon. She is survived by her sons Glenny, David and Francis Savy and seven grandchildren.
Rene was the second wife of President France Albert Rene, and they were married between 1975 and 1992. It was her second marriage, following the death of her first husband, Michel Savy.
For the Seychellois people, she was the epitome of an impeccably dressed First Lady, beautiful and graceful and kind towards everyone, who took the spotlight at public events in the 1980s. Her refinement and fashion sense were admired by all. She loved wearing hats for most occasions but sometimes she kept her long hair braided on the side. This image can be found in a stained-glass artwork at the Children’s Ark, a facility for child therapy, at Bel Eau on the main island of Mahe.
French First Lady Danielle Mitterand, President France Albert Rene and First Lady Geva Rene during President François Mitterand’s official visit to Seychelles in 1990 (personal family archive) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
Geva Rene has left a profound legacy where the protection of children and rights of children are concerned. She was the founder and patron of the National Council of Children (NCC), the Children’s Ark and the President’s Village orphanage.
In 1978, when the United Nations declared the International Year of the Child, Rene was instrumental in the setting up of the first Children’s Playground on Mahe, which opened later.
Childhood on the outer islands and becoming a teacher
Rene was born in the capital of Victoria to Louis Adam and Angela (née Uzice) from Praslin – the second most populated island of Seychelles – on October 30, 1932. She spent most of her childhood on the outer islands of the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, where her father was an island manager and administrator.
According to her son, Captain David Savy, Rene was home-schooled by her mother, a teacher herself, alongside her other siblings, until the age of 11.
“She then went to school at the Saint Joseph Convent where she excelled, and after finishing her secondary schooling known as the High School Certificate, she was awarded a scholarship to study the UK to do her degree in teaching,” Savy told SNA on Friday.
Back on the islands in the mid 1950’s, she went on to occupy senior teaching posts as head teacher at Seychelles College and Modern School.
“She got married in 1958 to Michel Savy and went on to have three sons, Glenny, myself and Francis. In 1963, she returned to the UK for postgraduate studies in child psychology and education,” added Savy.
Following the death of her husband in a plane accident, she met France Albert Rene and they were married in 1975 until 1992, making her Seychelles’ first and longest-serving First Lady.
Contribution to the education sector
Aside from her remarkable work and contribution to children and the rights of children, Rene also made important contributions to education. Dedicated to the teaching profession, she helped to establish the first Teacher Training College and the Seychelles International School.
Former TV journalist and producer Jean Claude Matombe got to know Rene when he joined the National Council for Children in 1998. “Like many of us I knew her as the First Lady, but got to work with Mrs Rene and developed a lasting friendship during my work at NCC.”
“What stood up with Madam Rene was her love, passion, and devotion to the cause of children, their betterment. In fact, she loved families. One thing also is that in her heart she remained a teacher. Often, she shared how being a teacher has been some of the best times of her life… she also had an incredible sense of humour,” Matombe recalled to SNA.
Geva Rene adored children and dedicated her life to their protection and welfare (personal family archive) Photo license: All Rights Reserved
According to Matombe, when dealing with difficult children, Rene would often bring them to her home, to spend the night and for her to better understand and help them.
The former NCC communications executive added that Rene had a deep sense of gratitude and would always make the people be aware of it.
“Mrs Rene always had little treats for everybody, sweets and chocolates which she would share with us all. She also loved local fruits such as the tamarin, which she would always share with all of us staff.”
This, according to Matombe, led to a culture of sharing at the NCC. In 2011, Rene started to retire from NCC and the public eye, but Matombe kept in close contact with her.
“I was privileged to attend her 90th birthday last year and only three weeks ago myself and an ex-NCC Director paid her a visit. Upon coming and when leaving, Rene blew us kisses,” Matombe told SNA on Friday.