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Thank God it's Friday

Wednesday March 19, 2003. First class of the day - music. First substitute teacher. The same substitute who punished me with a 500-word essay last week for lending my friend a book to copy up maths notes. Things get better with double art. Three weeks left to draw a self-portrait. Three weeks left to hand in my geography report. Three weeks left to study for my key stage 3s. It feels as if I've three weeks left to live.

Thursday March 20, 2003. King George begins bombing Baghdad and there's talk of a school walkout. At lunchtime, the head locks the school gates, so there's no escape. School feels more like a prison every day. We get suspended for chewing gum; we aren't allowed to take our blazers off walking from class to class. Hello. It's 30C out here. In winter, we aren't allowed to wear our own coats, even outside school; and gloves, scarves and hats are verboten. I must have been off sick the day they turned my school into a concentration camp. One girl manages to get out before the lockdown, but the whole school has to stay 15 minutes after 3pm because of the "chaos" we've caused. We look like troops standing in our straight lines in the playground in our green uniforms, about to go into attack. "Up the Iraqis!" someone shouts as we march off home.

Friday March 21, 2003. The girl who left school yesterday had a note from her mum to go to the dentist. Long live the revolution! Someone asks our RE teacher why we weren't allowed to walk out. "Because it's illegal," he says. "So's this war," I whisper.

What if I wake up on exam day forgetting everything I've learned in the past three years? What if I've done really well all year and muck up because of nerves? I hate exams. I hate living up to everyone's expectations. Thank God it's Friday.

Orlaith Graham Wood

Orlaith Graham Wood, 14, is a pupil at Meanscoil Feirste secondary school, Belfast

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