Another nursery school graduation, but what have the children learnt?

Wednesday Ramblings
Stabroek News
July 19, 2000

`Tis the season of Nursery School Graduations. All over Guyana little angels last week put on gowns and posed for pictures before they spread their wings and flew from the gentle bosom of their first schools.

One ceremony at a particular nursery school scheduled to start at 1pm last Thursday had impatient parents sitting on tiny school benches with their knees knocking against their chins and sweltering for half an hour under the broken down fans. What a variety of hairstyles on the parents! dropcurls, beehives , chicken pens!. You don't know that one do you? Well it is a square shape with some feathers stuck in it. The Lion King's trite mantra "Acuna matada it means no worries" came over the stereo system as the headmistress fretted about late parents and there not being enough seats . Another Lion King song "Be prepared" was an appropriate message to the parents of the hardships to come.

So with the crowd getting restless the promoters decided the show should begin . Out came seven little children carrying white boards." Give us a "W" an "E" ...WELCOME! ." So touching. No matter that it was highly improbable that even one of those children, all over five years, could read that word. In two years of tuition the majority of students leave without being able to recognise the letters of the alphabet and are only taught to count up to nine.

It was time to give out some awards . Because there were only three gowns available the children were called one by one on to the stage where their teacher put a piece of rolled up paper in their hands and told them to smile at the camera. For this charming little ceremony each parent had paid $600. In addition parents had contributed up to $1000 to the preparation of snacks which were then sold back, yes sold back to them at the very reasonable price of say $100 for a small bag of plantain chips. If the children had been following the entrepreneurial spirit of their teachers over the last two years ,they could have graduated with a Masters in Business Administration. Meanwhile the teachers were resplendent in full length Oscar winning gowns and suspiciously new shoes.

By now the children were becoming very excited, running around with Chubby bottles permanently lodged in their mouths and carrying greasy bags of that so healthy of snacks... Corn Curls . It was time for another song. What could be better than the old nursery school favourite " Sanko boy" ? It has all the ingredients to teach the children how gentle relations between the two sexes should be and what to do when you see a police man- " Boy! you'd better run!". Dressed in little tops the girls swivelled their hips as the parents laughed uproariously at their children's innocent imitations . Then the chairman, though largely ignored by the audience who were by now merrily holding their own conversations, reminisced about his school days , when he used to frantically bite his nails so teacher wouldn't whip him. Such fond memories . He went on to sing a complete aria of praises to the teachers who for this one day had changed their normal surly expressions into beaming lipsticked smiles. Oh how wonderful their hard work, their dedication ,their love, their care for these poor children. He forgot to sing the rather darker passage of one teacher seen hitting a child with a ruler for not closing his eyes during the Lord's Prayer. Such a sinful deed, punishable by eternal damnation.

It was time for another song "My teacher made me read and write." If only it were true. By now the applause was very tired. But there was still the hand out of presents to those parents who had made a special contribution over the year by selling 300 barbecue tickets or filling out 20 raffle sheets.

So the last song came around, the same every year. That true tear jerker " Goodbye teachers! Goodbye teachers! we will miss you now.. Merrily we roll along, roll along, roll along... off to Primary school!" The second verse until now undiscovered ,goes something like this. "Goodbye teachers in 60 weeks of school,weeks of school you have failed to teach us to recognise 26 letters nor to count past ten, count past ten! Merrily we roll along, roll along, totally unequipped for our first year in primary school. " It is that second verse that really makes the parents cry.

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