Somehow I ended up sitting at the head table with all of the teachers, and Head Master. A sea of little black faces looked towards me, listening intently to the speeches being poured forth by teachers, Head Master and Deputy Head-Master. The only white face out there was Brett, almost invisible though he was, swamped by the hordes of little boys that fawned over him with his magical camera slung around his neck once again.
As we walked to school that morning, our entourage of children had grown from one or two, to a large contingency by the time we reached the Mwaya Beach Public School. Children danced and skipped, hooted and hollered, as we walked along. When we neared the building, our group merged with the other students that milled about, and Brett and I found ourselves under the wing of an adult now. The Deputy Head Master at that!
I felt like an honoured guest, as we were treated to a tour of a class room and the main office. The Deputy Head Master had a running commentary of life for the students in his community, as he showed us the sparsely decorated class room. There was a chalk board in the simple rectangular room, but not a chair or desk to be seen. In fact, most of the lessons were done outside in the open air, as it made little difference if they were inside or out, except for on rainy days. Supplies were almost non-existent and the chalkboards could not even sport chalk to illustrate points on a good day. The beleaguered teachers had classes that numbered in the hundreds. How could one person teach effectively to a class of over 300 pupils? And why would they want to, when their pay was poor and usually late?
This was a far cry from the schooling that I had gone through back in Canada. I could not help but think that the teachers there had nothing to complain about in comparison.
A tour of the cramped office was a little better, but still dismal in its breadth. Stacks of books sat on the floor and on shelves, but when compared to the numbers of pupils, it was a far cry from the necessary needs. There were 1096 registered students at Mwaya Beach, and the stacks of books I saw numbered at most close to a hundred; probably less. When the Deputy Head Master learned I was from Canada, he picked up a book and handed it to me with the cover open. My national pride fluttered, as I read that it had been donated by the Canadian government. It would seem that they had sent several text and workbooks. It helped, but looking out at the sea of students, I knew it was just a drop in the bucket.