While searching for a few students I lost today, I started pondering the differences between teaching in Ireland and India. Being able to take 27 kids out for a day on your own would be not be possible on my green island. Losing students could get you into quite a spot of bother. Last week one of our teachers spilled hot oil on a child, and he just shrugged and moved along with his burning arm. When someone needs to light a gas stove they take a long piece of paper, stick it in the fire then run towards the gas cooker, through the crowds of children while holding their Olympic sized flame.
But the students are great, and we really try not to lose or burn them.
This week I have had a whole week of being reminded why I keep coming back here to Shillong to see them.
At the start of the week I happened across two students having a friendly argument. Both were jumping around the yard throwing something at each other. It was a 50 Rupee note (€0.78) that one half of the argument had given to her classmate and he was trying to pay her back. She was having none of it. The same girl who was refusing to be repaid couldn’t afford a 2 Rupee bus fare in 2008 (her lot improved when the school placed her is a safe home to get away from an bad situation). It’s nice to see someone whose luck is improving spreading the love around!
On Tuesday morning I began my day singing some rhymes with the KG class. The smallest student in the school ran into the classroom holding his pants. I informed him that he would have to get back out the door and get himself to the bathroom, I’m not good at handling accident situations. His little face scrunched up and my translator told me there was no time. He had to go and he had to go right away. Wilson, the chap in question, has rickets and so he knew his legs wouldn’t take him to where he needed to go in time.
The tallest boy in class came to Wilson’s rescue. Without even telling his smaller counterpart the plan, he hoisted him up on his back and made for the door. A third lad grabbed an umbrella and ran after them to keep them dry. They all came back a few minutes later with a very happy Wilson still on Noah’s back.
The midweek ‘hump’ day started very early for one of our students. Ranjit, turned up at 6.30am to cook some Indian snacks for his classmates and teachers. We had no idea what he was doing when I arrived into the kitchen with my two colleagues. We all presumed that one of the other teachers had asked him to cook these as part of the cooking class. It was only at the end of class when we were asking why he was rolling so many of these tasty doughy-potatoy goodies that he told us it was his way of celebrating. In the confusion I had tried to pack up his labour of love and sell it along with all the other food we make for selling every day. Thankfully some little people stopped me in my tracks and we all welcomed in his 17th year.
I didn’t get a photo of his birthday food. But it looked very like the circles below. Just with onion and potato mixed in:
Later that day…..
…I had to go do some shopping. My students dutifully accompanied me so I wouldn’t get lost on the road. Just as we were leaving the grounds of the school one girl said;
“Miss, what is a squat?”
I showed her what a squat was, getting down on my hunkers and knocking over a uniformed man with my butt.
“Eh….no Miss. S-Q-U-A-D”
“Ah, a squad. It’s like a team”
“Oh, so what’s a bomb team…”
The uniformed lad my rear end had collided with was one of the many bomb disposal experts who were outside our local restaurant. An hour earlier we heard an explosion and joked that it sounded quite like a bomb. My students laughed at my reaction (I’m not too fond of bombs) – suddenly I didn’t really need to go shopping at all.
“You scared of bombs, Miss??”
And just in case I wasn’t terrified enough the littliest one stated matter-of-factly; “There was another one in Lapalang yesterday”
I’m not sure where this Lapalang is but I think I was there once visiting the homes of the students. These little people are unfazed by anything (except earthquakes, don’t mention earthquakes). The ‘bomb’ in our restaurant turned out to be a gas explosion (in which one person died unfortunately). It was just unlucky that it happened just after a local group threatened to bomb the city so it caused a bit of panic.
On Thursday I met one of my former students who I taught back in 2005/06. She’s now 21, working, studying and fending for herself far better than I am. She spoke to me very honestly about how life after school is for our students, and how they feel applying for jobs having come from a school with, ‘for underprivileged children’ in its title. She was afraid at first to tell anyone what school she had gone to for fear of being branded in a negative way, and only now, two years after she left school, she realises how lucky she is to be a graduate of Providence. The skills she learned in the school have stood to her and she can earn a decent wage as a hairdresser/beautician while she studies.
She is currently taking classes in English, Education, History, Economics and Political Science for her Class XII exams (equivalent to English A-levels). When class is over at midday (it begins at 6am) she goes to her job in a beauty parlour and does a full days work there. She gave me the run down on what her former classmates are up to. 5 have gone on to higher education, the other 10 are working as chefs, teachers, in a bank, and as a trainer of sales people in an insurance company. I recently met the last guy who was just back from a business trip in Kolkata! When you think that their parents had to earn less than 15 Euro a month to get them into the school, and they’re all earning more than that now – they’re not doing too bad!
(We’ll just slip past Friday as not much happened that day…..)
We went out for a stroll, my students and I. Came across this lovely addition to a waterfall:
For our outing we went to the local golf course (where I misplaced the aforementioned lost students). This is possibly the most popular hang out place for families in all of Shillong and anyone who dares play golf there gets hundreds of angry eyes watching til they move on. I used laugh at this, but I became the owner of two of said angry eyes when my picnic on the 8th tee was interrupted.
My students and I wandered around for a while, the smallest one taking me by the hand and leading me around. I thought she just liked holding hands, but I noticed she seemed to want to run and play. I finally convinced her to leave me and go and she screamed;
“Roseliiiiina! Come mind Miss”
My students are cute, but there is really no need to mind ‘Miss’.
I only have a few days left here in Shillong. My main job is to teach Internet to 10 youngsters who have never used it before. We had a shaky start with people replying to Google Alerts Autoresponders thanking them for services and writing too Mail Daemon messages apologizing for writing the wrong email address. Just the other day someone wanted to ask Google how to change the homepage. When they typed in ‘How to’ Google gave some helpful suggestions, ‘How to get pregnant’ and ‘How to kiss’. Thankfully the student’s head was down while she was typing and and didn’t see the suggestions. I willed her to keep typing and not look up until she’s done!