Sunday, June 1, 2008

After the rain...

Friday past was the last day of classes before exams and the Winter break. To say the students were antsy is putting it mildly. By lunchtime the school was akin to a barnyard and it soon became clear that there would be no teaching that afternoon.

For the three weeks prior, a group of American students from Old Dominion University in Virginia had been visiting Fezeka and working on a number of initiatives to improve the work/play balance of the school. A group of bright young women, with little direction they hatched a number of innovative ideas during their time here.

One such idea was a merit award ceremony. Based on marks from the first term, they had certificates of excellence printed for students who had performed well in each subject area.

As the group was leaving two days later, an assembly was hastily planned for that afternoon so as to allow the visiting young women to be involved in the presentation of certificates.

Students were corralled into the part of the courtyard where assemblies are held. As they waited, a game of soccer got underway. I stood with my students and watched and cheered. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles, aside from the faces of the players, whose were more accurately involved in intense concentration. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I felt happy.

Suddenly, as I have come to learn is common during South African winters, dark clouds moved in quickly and let forth a mighty downpour. Students screamed and headed for cover under the awnings that line the walkways outside the classrooms.

Then they began to sing.
And dance.
And laugh.

A back and forth banter took up between those under the awnings and those looking out the windows of the classrooms opposite. Those ensconced in the relative warmth and dry of the building began a cheer. I asked one of my students what they were saying. He told me they were taunting the ones outside in the rain about how nice and dry it was in the classrooms.

All the while, the sound equipment and speakers that had been set up for the assembly were sitting under a tiny ledge, protected from the rain but dangerously close to getting wet. When one of my students ventured out to collect them, the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

Eventually the rain slowed to a drizzle and the boys once again took up their game of soccer. As I watched this brief scenario unfold, I soon became aware that I had had a smile on my face the entire time. Seeing these young people behave like kids – the kids that they are and yet rarely get a chance to be – playing in the rain and being silly was solely responsible for my smile. And for the feeling of warmth that stayed with me for the remainder of the day, despite the fact that both the hems of my trousers and shoes were soaked right through.

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