BC’S B’DOS – School of untaught
MY DAUGHTER’S SECONDARY school formally closed last Thursday, June 23, but it might as well have slammed its gates shut almost three weeks earlier, on 3rd June, the day of her last exam. Since that date, she did absolutely firetrucking nothing in school – unless you count finishing two vampire novels, making in-depth plans for several vacation limes and playing many boisterous in-classroom games of cards, Taboo and Trivial Pursuit.
In the third term of every school year, at her school – one of the five best state schools on anyone’s list – all academic and quasi-educational activity ceases completely after exams and the entire student population is left to its own devices; God and the juvenile offender schemes alone know what happens in “bad” schools.
For this is how every school year ends for every school in Barbados, I am told: for three weeks, several thousand attendees of secondary school – they cannot accurately be called “students” in this context – turn up at the school compound in uniform and spend seven or eight hours almost completely unsupervised; which, if they are the kind of student I was, could lead to nothing but trouble.
If, while classes were actually going on and teachers were vigorously policing their charges, I was in the toilet, smoking cigarettes and sipping Merrydown (a mildly alcoholic cider drink, popular with my O’Level year as being marginally less rotgut than Charlie’s Red Spanish Wine), what are the willing-to-be-misled youth of Barbados going to get up to, left completely unsupervised?
And it’s funny how often writing can change my mind; I don’t mean someone else’s, I mean my own.
It’s outright peculiar how often the process of writing, which requires thinking, of course, even from me, precipitates a change of mind.
When I began writing this column a scant six paragraphs ago, I was hovering over outrage. The sheer waste of everything involved – children’s time, school plant, “teacher” salaries, gasoline consumed and needless traffic created – had me on the very edge of extreme annoyance. How could this happen?
I asked myself, irritated? How could it be allowed?
How could the fastidious Barbados adult population, which can normally be relied upon to cross every “T”, dot every “I” and extinguish immediately the least glimmer of freedom the moment it shows itself, allow its tender youth to run wild for three weeks, and in the damned schools, to boot! Where is that ever ready West Indian instinct for repression?
And then it struck me what a glorious thing it was, this officially sanctioned wastage and idleness in the prime of young man- and womanhood. And I changed my mind. Next year, instead of letting her stay home any time she asks, in that useless last three-week period of the Trinity term, as I did over the last fortnight, I shall insist my daughter go to school; and tell her to enjoy the mayhem. “It may be the last time,” I shall tell her, “you might witness official relaxation; but try to avoid being caned.”
B.C. Pires is a rebel without applause. Email him at [email protected]