Thank God it's Friday

9th February 2001 at 00:00
Monday There's a bat in my class in Botswana and, unsurprisingly, the pupils aren't paying much attention to me. Just as I start a lecture on the wonders of bat radar, a girl at the back slaps it out of mid-air with her book. It lands on the desk of another pupil, who has apoplexy. Eventually, things return to normal. At least the bat takes my mind off the heat. Every time I touch the board, I leave huge, sweaty prints.

Tuesday It's hot again. It's nearly always hot, but in a "wish you were here" sort of way. But now it's hot in a "so this is why there are no rivers and we live on the edge of a desert" sort of way. My wonderful students (always well-behaved and hard-working) are giving it their best, but it's the last period of the day and they've been up since 5am, so they're flagging. I stagger around the room marking their work, gently waking up anyone who has passed out.

Wednesday I'm heading for my first lesson (7.10am) when I'm stopped by a student in my form about some lost property. After a couple of double periods, it's back to the staffroom to knock some marking out during break, thn it's another lesson - explaining evolution in three easy steps. By the end everyone has pretty much got it. That's the thing about teaching in Africa; it's not very different. Same tasks, same problems.

Thursday I'm called out of my lesson - we're going to find a cow. No, this is not usual, but it's parents' day tomorrow, so the teachers must kill, skin, chop up and cook a cow to serve to said parents. But our cow's gone missing - not our fault, the seller has lost it somewhere in the bush. I get lost too, and owe my life to a student who leads me back to the safety of the school truck and then home. I'm so sunburned, my head looks like a cricket ball.

Friday They find our cow early this morning, but strangely, I don't hear them when they knock at my door. By the afternoon, everything is fine, the parents get their meal and seem content with the exploits of their offspring. The singing, dancing and marimba-playing go down a treat.

Ross Styles teaches comparative religion and PSE at Zwenshambe community junior secondary school in Botswana. His students are aged from 11 to 23


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