Friday, February 5, 2010

My first day of school

First Day of School
I have been to more than my share of first days of school and none of them come close to comparing to the one I had in Samoa. My principal (who is also my mom) was away sending my sister off to Vanuatu for her law degree (Go Sheliza!). The teacher who lives across the street told me that school started at seven o’clock and how she was worried that I would struggle getting up at that hour. So I made sure to set my alarm to get up extra early just in case.
The night before I had my first day of school jitters in which made it difficult for me to fall asleep and by four o’clock I was completely awake. My brothers had promised me that they would go and buy pankeke in the morning, but I felt bad waking them up. I had heard that school would not be long and decided that I would just be Samoan and eat a big meal when it was over.
I put on my pulatasi and headed to school and got there at 6:50. There were a handful of kids and I sat outside with them and chatted. They were from Foailalo and so it made me feel okay that I didn’t know their name since it was a different village. Pretty soon I saw some of the men in my village show up with their machetes. The word men is very loose as it is the healthy men in the village and one of them looked as young as 13, but a majority of them were in their late teens and early 20’s.
They began cutting the grass and trimming the weeds. There were probably around 30 men from my village. And on the other side of the yard there were about that many cutting the other side of the yard. I found out they were from Satuatua . Our school is made up of three villages and I guess they all share their responsibility of the yard work. However only the two villages showed up. So on both sides of the yard the grass is cut short and in the middle it is extrememly long. It seems like a strange way to get the grass cut because if the village men come whenever they feel the need to, it will never be close to even grass. (Something that I have learned to love living in Colorado with the best neighbor Mike!) While they were working the rest of the teachers and students scattered in.
After they finished it was the students turn to get to work. The vice principal rallied the troops and told the students what jobs they needed to do to clean the school. While they worked I chatted with the teachers and MESC (Ministry of Sports Education and Culture) wanted the teachers to come the previous week to set up the classrooms and school so that education can begin right away, but it did not seem like many schools were listening to that. The students were carrying furniture from one room to another, taking the mats and beating the dirt out of them with a broom, sweeping the classrooms, moving the detachable walls, and much, much, more.
While this was happening out SRO (School Review Officer) showed up in a taxi. He apparently has been trying to retire for a while but because of the massive shortage of personnel in education many get guilted into staying longer. He stayed in the taxi and talked with some of the teachers. Apparently his leg is bad and he has difficulty walking up the steps to our school so rarely visits the classrooms, something that would seem important for that job.
After the cleaning the bell was rung and the students met for their afternoon assembly and prayer. School was finished after that. No teaching, not much educational interaction with the students which made it interesting.
Later that day I talked with some of the other Peace Corps Volunteers and they had similar experiences. Some of them were stuck in meetings in which they were being told how they would be tossed around, others were having their schools try to give them a full class (something that many of us have had to say, “This is not our job. We are here to teach English and work with the other teachers.” many times that we have begun to be sick of saying the same words. One volunteer was given a class and was told it was only temporarily. Being volunteers we have learned that we need to hold our ground otherwise we will be doing a lot more than we signed up for and may become completely over our head.
Seeing how the first day went, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year pans out. All I can tell you for sure is that the Samoan classroom is completely different than the American classroom.

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