Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Children's Day

Yesterday afternoon we attended a celebration in the State Governor’s banquet hall  to mark the occasion of the commissioning of lesson plans for Primary 1 to 3, which will now be used throughout all State primary schools and marks a watershed, hopefully, in the quality of teaching in literacy and numeracy delivered to young children. A huge effort has been made, supported by the Honourable Commissioner for Education, by many dedicated professionals to get these plans in place. Caroline has had a large hand in this (her hands aren’t really very large but her fingers are quite slender!) and had spent most of the morning helping decorate the hall to give it the sense of occasion that the event deserved. The Governor himself was to address the assembled dignitaries, press, members of the public, children and their teachers, ex-pats and those who are still fairly ‘pat’.
The children had been rehearsing all week and had prepared a number of songs, role plays and mock lessons as demonstrations of just how far things have progressed over the past four years.
Three hours later than the scheduled start of the celebration there was still no news as to when the Governor would arrive. Seemingly out of the question for a text message or phone call to be sent to let us know what was going on! The children had been sitting for hours – nothing to eat or drink and good as gold, having performed all the tricks asked of them and probably understanding little of what the occasion was about.
Eventually the High Table was assembled – the Governor would not be present after all and would be represented by his deputy. Those who clapped the loudest and longest as each dignitary was invited to take their place, were the children. All due protocols having been observed, speeches were made and the children got to perform part of their programme.
When he finally came to make his brief speech, the deputy governor started by saying ‘I started as a teacher’, which earned him a round of applause.  By the end I would have liked to be able to say ‘Then you should know what it is like for the children and their teachers to prepare for events such as this, and at the very least thank them for their essential contribution to the occasion!’ Those kids deserved better, their teachers deserved congratulations as did all the staff who had  planned and prepared the lesson plans. This didn’t happen! The boxes of lesson plans that had been brought into the hall prior to being distributed to hundreds of schools remained unveiled, not even looked at by the politicians. In the end people were told to cut their speeches short and the kids did not get to perform some of the routines they had practised. ‘Children are used to disappointment!’ I was told. In my opinion this had turned out to be an event for political self-gratification, not to celebrate the efforts of those who have worked hard to bring it all to fruition, nor for the children or for this milestone hopefully pointing towards brighter future prospects. I'm sure the children will have something to remember of the day, other than thirst and hunger pangs, but as an objective observer I can only think back to the comment of the teenager at Pakata Girls School who told me she loved her country but didn't think her country loved her!
Yesterday was National Children’s Day!

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