Wednesday, 22 January 2014



Christmas. New Year. Halloween Day. A time of celebration, fun and good cheer. Or so you thought, until you’re invited (commanded, more likely) to attend your school’s celebratory function.
 It will be well organized, on paper at least.
7:00 pm: Welcome speech by Director.
7:15 pm: Item by Class T5 (Song: “Pretty, Pretty Boy”.)
7:30 pm: Quiz
8:00 pm: Item by Class DH2 (Song: “Pretty, Pretty Boy”.)
8:15 pm: Fashion Show by students 5 to 9 years old.
8:45 pm: Santa.
9:15 pm: Item by Class L7 (Song: “Pretty, Pretty Boy”. Yes, they were told that it’s already been done twice, but the students protest that it’s the only song they know, they’ve been rehearsing it for three months, and besides….)
9:30 pm: ….
And so on, until the finish at 10:00 pm sharp.

Yes, it’ll all be planned down to the finest detail. Almost like a battle plan. But, as any soldier knows, battle plans fall apart the moment the first shot is fired. And so it is with your school’s much anticipated party. It doesn’t get going until 7:45. The music breaks down after the first minute of “Pretty, Pretty Boy”. Twenty minutes later the stage lighting short-circuits and plunges the scene into darkness. Santa runs out of presents, leaving a dozen kids inconsolable and in a flood of tears. Santa is overheard muttering “Never a-fucking-gain.” The whole fiasco winds up at 11:15, by which time the mood of the audience is bordering on ugly. A sizeable number of guests have drifted away by now, but you can’t; there are chairs to be stacked, litter to be picked up, and children whose parents haven’t turned up to sort out. You finally escape at around midnight, your ears ringing with the five renditions of “Pretty, Pretty Boy” you’ve sat through, and swearing to yourself that this will be the last school function you’ll ever attend.

Merry Christmas.

Now, school outings. A wonderful idea! Get the students out of their classrooms, get them practicing their English in an outdoor situation. Great. Everyone loves school field-trips. Or everyone loves the idea of school-field trips; in reality they usually end up as disorganized debacles.

With any school trip there are a number of non-negotiable givens. It will start late. The air conditioning on the bus will be on the blink. On boarding the bus, fights will break out over who gets which seat. Kids’ bags will go missing. Once the bus is underway, Little Timmy will unleash a series of surreptitious farts which raises a storm of protest and will linger for a quarter of an hour. By the time the bus disgorges the students at the destination, they are hot, irritable and argumentative.

The destination itself, an orchard and fruit-packing factory typically, will prove a disappointing anti-climax that arouses not a glimmer of interest among the bored, peevish students. When, thankfully, it’s all over and it’s time to board the bus for home, a head-count reveals that six students have seemingly vanished without trace. Search parties are organized. After twenty minutes the missing students are discovered gleefully hiding themselves behind trees. A new search is then launched for one search party which has gone missing…

The bus finally limps back to the school, an hour late, and full of sweating, ill-tempered students who would rather be anywhere but on a school outing.

“And don’t forget kids, tonight’s homework is an essay on ‘My Special School Outing’.”


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