Sri Lanka Burns

I bought an umbrella today, along with a pineapple and some water. Total price less than a fiver. However, the rain – which had a “dry run” whilst I was school – stayed off until I was back at base. I’ll stop going on about Croc. Trincomalee, I promise, but the last couple of days paled into insignificance as far as downfall was concerned: perhaps the lightning will come later.

My morning in school was OK: a quick set of notes about Burns: we’ll see if and how well they are able to write a paragraph about Rabbie. We listened to a bit of “Auld Lang Syne”: a really dirge-like version by Eddi Reader. It was either that or Moira Anderson (boak). We also had some shortbread as I had neither haggis nor a good malt… Did the same with the parallel class and read to P1.

However dull my lesson was – and the music didn’t help! – surely it was better than Assembly. One year-group of middle primary started us off quite well, reciting and explaining English proverbs in a stilted self-conscious sort of way. They talked clearly, though quietly, held the microphone at a sensible distance and I was able to catch most of it. Madam then spoke about the importance of getting school fees in on time and how there was a rising scale of charges for late payment: mention was made of the security guards at the gate potentially having to turn away non-payers, with passing reference to the legal liability issues which that would raise. Then, like last week, a male teacher came up to hector the kids on how they represented the school when in uniform and how they should think about that. Both today’s chap and last week’s incumbent kept telling the kids (middle Primary upwards and Secondary) they “didn’t understand” and that teachers gave punishments to make children realise the error of their ways. I know it’s difficult to get over a message to such an age range, but there must be a better way than a quarter-hour’s harangue, interspersed with verbal finger-pointing at kids who’ve switched off because they “don’t understand”. Today’s speaker said in the staffroom that he thought he’d gone on too long: no argument there but I have to be fair and say that I still have difficulty with some of the more strongly-accented speakers. Sometimes I don’t even realise they’re speaking English. I know that “my” English is only one of many variants and they all have their place, but in a school which aims at University Entrance exams etc. and teaches solely in English (with the obvious exceptions of the Tamil and Sinhala classes), they should try for better exponents of the language. They also teach French here: I must find out in what medium the language is taught: I haven’t identified the French teacher, but know he / she is not French.

I got a mild ticking-off from Madam today. Apparently some teacher told her I’d had my feet on a seat in class. I have no recollection of that, but it doesn’t seem unlikely. She says the teachers here are very traditional and reactionary – something I agree with entirely. I accepted my ticking-off with reasonably good grace, but countered by saying I thought I was being under-utilised: that with 35 years’ secondary teaching in English then ICT, I could surely be better employed than reading “The Rainbow Bird” to Primary 1 and dealing with silly little boys in P6: I may have phrased it a bit more tactfully. I said I realised these years were as important as any other, but I had no experience whatsoever with these ages and my approach would probably be wrong as well: however, I added, if she felt I was being properly used, then so be it. She said that the Senior pupils, who are going for Edexcel A Levels could choose their subjects and not many chose English. Soon after that, I bunked off to buy my umbrella.

On my way out, I grabbed a panorama of the music room. The lady teacher chatted away and bemoaned the lack of interest in her subject: it looks as though the Arts are being rejected at Options time!

music room

Galle is plastered with posters advertising colleges, schools, evening classes and Universities. It is almost impossible to stand at a road junction (a dangerous place at the best of times, even on a pavement) and not be bombarded by eye-catching adverts with pretty girls and handsome young men in mortarboards looking towards a brighter future. Equally, the town seems awash with kindergartens, Montessori schools, primaries, colleges, places offering “English Degrees”, faith-based schools, even the odd SQA sign. Sanganita College – the girls’ school I was wrongly dropped off at on the first morning – has 6000 pupils, many of whom are boarders from the country. Education is clearly highly-valued, but does seem a rather dreary process to me! But I can’t complain: just 3 days a week and even then only half a timetable. Then there’s the corollary of the long weekends: twice blest! Sanganita was the first Buddhist nun, I’m told.

Today’s an eating day and I walked into a cafe at random and ended up with rice & curry. They had no EGB, so water and Coke had to do. I’m not a fan of either rice or curry, but perspired manfully through a plateful, body-swerved the peeled hard-boiled egg I was presented with, but had my yoghurt and paid 600/- for the lot. Divide SLR by 200 and get £. I must track down egg hoppers: they sound good. Any additional suggestions from experts are always welcome!

I’ve just started on the mango I bought yesterday: it’s ripe and juicy etc. but has a highly scented flavour. I don’t think it’s an improvement on Tesco’s, though it’s a whole lot cheaper and has no air miles.

It was good talking to Sonia last night. Am I right in thinking Facebook bought over Skype? A few dropouts on the “line”, but free! We even did some crossword clues.

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