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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Thanks to no good schooling

I'm glad that my schooling was so bad. Between the age of 9 and 15 I was at a new school in Limuru, Kenya. There were only 12 of us when I first started. We got there by taking the overnight train from Mombasa to Nairobi and were picked up in the combi and taken up to Limuru. We slept with the windows closed to keep out the mosquitos, robbers and lions.

At school the Head's eldest son taught us. The middle son looked after us and the youngest son was kept out of the way as he dabbled in drugs and stuff. Every now and then we got teachers coming from England who earnestly tried to teach us. On Sundays the missionaries came ... they had some good songs.

The Head's husband was madness himself. He lined us up in the morning and asked each one of us individually: "Are you tickety boo?" And in turn we would answer "Yes, Major. I'm tickety boo." Sometimes he gave us cod liver oil.

We had very few lessons. The woosie-wet teachers who came out from England didn't last long. Only those who taught us how to play games - like Mr. Sykes who taught us badminton. An exception was Mr. Nichols who taught Geography. I don't know why we listened to him...

The rest of the time we were outside, unsupervised, creating our universe. We built an entire village in the bush on the periphery of the school bounds (beyond that was the wild). Bundu-bashing through the undergrowth we built ourselves houses. We created an entire economy based on buying and selling cakes (made from the Limuru-red soil and pretty flowers) and crockery made from carved out custard-apples. Our banking and currency system was the custard apple seeds.

We played British bulldogs, marbles and skipping. There was no TV, radio, indoor toilets - and often no water. We tried to dig a swimming pool.

David, the Head's eldest son, set up a wonderful rope swing which you could daringly swing on over the pigsties. We created an annual three-day safari rally with dinky cars. We weren't allowed out when Jeremy-The-Bull was out of his field - legend had it that he had killed two people. Even so, we did go through a phase of playing "risk" by running through his field to the loquart tree (nesperas) while he was there.

At 15 my parents whisked me off to a strict boarding school in England which counts as two of the most miserable years of my life. It was there I had a cold, sharp shock about different realities, different worlds and different values. I quite easily managed to pick up lots of O'levels despite having no preparation.

I feel immensely privelaged that for most of my schooling we had time to play, to make things happen, and to create a shared, glorious imagination. I am sure it was the best preparation for being able to participate, to create and to give. I think it prepared me to find things out for myself and to think outside the box.

Above all, I think it prepared me to learn...


Blogger Pedro Custódio said...

On Sundays the missionaries came ... they had some good songs.

Vinha a ler este post no comboio, e esqueci-me que estava com phones nos ouvidos, quando li esta frase, ri tanto, mas tanto que quando acabei estava tudo a olhar! :D

É tão verdade...

Mas acho que tenho que concordar com a Beverly acredito que a falta de uma boa educação nos faz procurar mais e melhor educação e se calhar nos prepara melhor para vida.

4/20/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Eduardo Gaspar said...

What a good story :o) That reminds my school at brazil. It was quite simylar to yours, not only because it had lots of animals and green areas, but also the teaching method was a kind of letting us to discover the world by ourselves (with a little help of teachers, of course). When i came to Europe, i felt a big shock. I think that the european's teaching method is like "no pain, no gain", unlike others that are more like "no fun, no learning"...

4/20/2006 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger AndyR said...

Bev, I enjoyed the story very much. Although I went to a more 'normal' school, it was in a rural environment and as young children we spent all of the eternal summer holidays roaming free across the fields, woods, meadows and salt marsh. Back at school, the teacher would decide if it was sunny day, to take us all out on a nature walk or maybe just carry all the tables out into the playground to sit under the enormous chesnut tree. I feel a little sad that in the modern world, my own children have been allowed to enjoy only a fraction of such experiences.

4/20/2006 09:58:00 PM  
Blogger bev trayner said...

Pedro ... I once did the same on the tube in London during rush hour. It was over 20 years ago and I was reading "Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy". The business commuters kept their noses firmly in their newspapers as I almost fell on the florr crying with laughter!

4/23/2006 01:27:00 PM  
Blogger bev trayner said...

Eduardo... When you say that I wonder if people who find learning a pleasure give off a different vibe.

4/23/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger bev trayner said...

Andy ... I'm thinking of how, still to this day, I invent games and conversations with my kids (aged 23 and 17!) There is still magic and essence-of-life around and about. The biggest enemy for me being time rather than location. (Although location is important too).

4/23/2006 01:38:00 PM  

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