We’re in the last term of the year, and I was excited to see my students again after an extended Easter break. The first day back, I walked onto the compound to have students warmly greet me, ask how I spent my holiday and why my legs were so ugly, with a blanket of bug bites. “Miss, ya know about spray?” It’s good to be back. In the afternoon, I approached the Headmaster and inquired about the broken septic tanks that caused the school to close a bit earlier. “I went away for break, Miss, and forgot about it and nobody came to fix them.” Ok, well that makes sense: if you leave and don’t call anyone, no one would come.
The conditions have now escalated to the point that the students and faculty, including a pregnant teacher, can’t use the bathroom. The stench was also beginning to get unbearable. This isn’t the only problem with the school’s facilities. The stairs were so weak that a student had stepped a bit too hard and pieces of concrete debris fell on a female student’s head.
On Tuesday, the Senior Master called an impromptu assembly after school. The Senior Master tells the students if they want change, they can take a stand by not coming to school. Then he declares that none of the teachers will teach until the problem is rectified.
I walked home with a few students and ask them if they plan on attending school tomorrow. Most of them said yes because they didn’t understand the concept of going on strike. Funny because we discussed trade unions and strikes last term. I’m such a great teacher.
Not much happened the rest of the week. Every time someone needed to use the facilities, they were sent home.
The parents finally mobilized on Wednesday and bolted down every single door of the school with two by fours, then padlocked the front gate. About a dozen or so concerned parents stood out under the unrelenting sun, sheltering themselves beneath parasols, and holding up protest signs each time a vehicle passed. A few entrepreneurial students came around and sold icicles (flavored ice) to them. Actually they were my little genius students who did that. They don’t understand strikes, but they know how to make an extra buck. Good work. Since the teachers were evicted from the compound by the parents, they had no choice but to gather around the shop across the street, staring at and discussing the situation. The Teacher’s Union had instructed them to remain sitting across the street each day until further notice.
One of the parents called the media, which came hours later to expose the deplorable conditions: derelict wooden steps, piles of unburned garbage, numerous termite nests, rusty water tanks, lack of fencing (where the children just run out through the back instead of going to class), damaged and smashed toilets, and of course the ruptured leaking septic tanks. The piece was picked up by the other news stations (and by “stations” I mean the other one).
The Ministry of Education finally takes notice and says everything will be fixed over the weekend.
During rainy season, everything gets delayed. We go to school on Monday to see the work unfinished and the gates still padlocked. The Ministry spends the rest of the week slowly and shoddily rebuilding a few of the critical items on the demand list. They also want to cut costs by trying to get prisoners to clean the school.
School can finally resume! 5th Formers are supposed to take the CXCs during the month of May. This is probably the most important exam of their Secondary School career, a good score leading to the opportunity of a more promising future. Our 5th formers haven’t had the past month to prepare due to the school’s conditions and are planning on taking the exams starting this week. Since our school is too small to house all the students while the 5th formers are given sufficient space to test, many of them are asked to go home. We walk in on Monday to inquire about the schedule.
Me: Sir, I hear that there is a lot of testing going on in May and June. How will this affect my timetable?
Senior Master: Yes, well Miss is working on a Calendar of Events. There will be many days when you cannot teach.
Me: Can I see the calendar? When will it be done?
Senior Master: When she has finished writing it.
Right. Why did I even bother asking such a silly question.
On a side note, someone please give me a new job. I come back in August and I’ll work anywhere where the toilets are in working order.