Monday, 31 August 2009
Onam - Prelude
It's the start of the Onam festival time here in Kerala. Onam is like a harvest festival, celebrated by all religions and castes. Well, sort of... some folk think it's a bit uncivilized or unrefined or heathen. That's why I like it! Because it has little to do with religion! Story has it that ancient King Mahabali is visiting his people and they need to put on a display to impress him and show that they are doing OK, hence the 'onapookkalam' flower arrangements which appear everywhere.
I wrote an article about SISP's Onam celebrations. It has quite a few pictures and a couple of videos.
Most schools in the area have at least the whole of this week off but we just have Wednesday to Friday. Something to do with balancing the number of days holiday throughout the year. A significant number of kids didn't turn up at school anyway, because their mates were at home so why shouldn't they be?! The Headteacher was also absent, and he was the driving force for today's organised events. They still went ahead, though perhaps not in a very organised manner. The competition to make the prettiest Pookkalam took 4 hours instead of two, teachers joined in when they shouldn't with the middle groups, while the youngest and oldest groups had no guidance at all!
In the afternoon we were all meant to go to the playground about 5km away but Paul decreed (probably rightly) that, because numbers were down and because of the problems of two loadings of the school bus, we'd play games on SISP's backyard. This we did, but it was somewhat cramped and chaotic. The children all had fun anyway.
It's difficult, in a Blog, to know what dirty linen should be aired in public. While the audience is small and known there's no problem but if it's open and public then you're more reticent to say things in case you cause offence or tarnish a reputation etc. I guess, even if I make this blog public, it does little harm to mention that seven boys turned up at SISP's Independence Day celebration on 15th August slightly tipsy and smelling of alcohol. At 9:30 am! They were consequently suspended after a telling-off and told that Paul (founder and managing director) would review the situation when he returned from Belgium - and that was today. It was no surprise for me to learn that the boys would all be allowed back next week. No surprise firstly because Paul is compassionate (a soft-touch by his own admission), and secondly because we are trying to give these boys an education - a chance in life. This comes in an atmosphere of a general problem with discipline and knuckling down to lessons with the two oldest classes - the boys just like to lark about. They are fine individually, it's just when they get together. I don't think suspension on it's own does the trick. It will send the right messages, sure, but only briefly. When they think about it, who wouldn't mind a two-week holiday with no consequences?! It needs to be backed up with more - expulsion is going too far, but perhaps the withdrawal of privileges. Trouble is, it's difficult to see what privileges they have - and perhaps that's more the question.
Does this all sound familiar to Western ears?!
And you have to remember that corporal punishment doesn't work - they have enough of that at home.
Something I've long thought is that giving them skills training (and the threat of withdrawing it) might work. Some kids seem keen enough to do it and certainly would benefit. We've talked about it long enough at SISP but failed to do anything. Really, their failure is our failure.