Iqbal Jannif is one of a few people in Fiji privileged enough to be called as one of the Marist Brothers even though he is not a Catholic.
Jannif was made an honorary Brother by the Marist Brothers in 2005 for his service towards the education of young people who went through the Marist school fraternities.
The businessman is himself a former Marist Suva Street and Marist Brothers’ High School student from 1951 to 1959.
Throughout his adult life, Mr Jannif heavily involved himself in all facets of education for Marist schools.
He was the president for the Parents and Teachers Association in both Marist Suva Street and later Marist Brothers High School.
He was also involved with the Champagnat Institute at Vatuwaqa which is a special school for unprivileged and disabled students.
He was also a member of the Marist board of education and the chairman for the committee that supervised the building of Lambert Hall in Marist High.
He worked closely with the brothers and on one occasion, he was invited by the Marist Brothers to visit Rome, the centre of the Catholic faith.
This year will mark the 75th year since Marist Brothers High School was established in Fiji and this will be the third celebrations as such that Mr Jannif will be part of.
He was still a student when the school celebrated its 25th anniversary and was a parent and old boy when the school celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Through the years, Mr Jannif has noticed the marked change the school has undergone since it became legendary, under the scholarly leadership of the Marist brothers.
“The school has changed. There are today fewer Brothers than there were in our days, but I think the Marist spirit which burnt so strongly when there were more brothers, still burns so strongly today.”
“The Red Fire spirit is still alive,” Mr Jannif says.
His introduction into the Marist family was through his father.
“My father made that choice. He himself was the product of Marist Convent in Levuka,” Mr Jannif says.
Being the only boy in his family, it was only natural that he attend Marist - a tradition he continued with his son later in life.
His appreciation for the efforts put in by the Marist brothers in the education sector in Fiji was forged in his early years at Marist Suva Street, in particular by the late Brother Bertrand.
“His diversity of interests and expertise is really something I see in him. Both as my soccer coach and as the trainer for the Saint John Ambulance Brigade. All the brothers took real interest in their students,” Mr Jannif says.
“I don’t know whether in those days, if it was any different to what other schools were doing because I didn’t attend these other schools but I always felt the Brothers went out of their way to ensure the education they imparted was complete and that their students succeeded in whatever they did,” Mr Jannif says.
Mr Jannif was in the same lot of students as Grahame Southwick, Andrew Drysdale Timoci Bukasoqo, one of the first Fijians to enlist in the British Army, Doctor Rajat Gyaneshwar of Vuda, retired Australian lawyer Arvind Pillay, Andrew Singh and Bernard Chandra.
“Many of my former schoolmates are living all over the world and many are living with their families here in Fiji too,” Mr Jannif says.
The Marist Brothers’ High School 75th anniversary celebrations will be held on October 13 this year.