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(Son is his school shirt and sandals - first day)
It is an international school with mainly Fijian and Fiji-Indian children, and the school teaches in English.
There is a marina near here with many yachts, and town has several international workers and business owners, so there are a few children from around the world.
Children start school here at 6 years old.
They accept my son in the next class up from what he would be in Australia – Class 3, so he is really thrilled.
We have our meeting and are introduced to all the teachers with a morning tea comprising of sweet milky tea – which my son really loves.
This is served with whole bananas, some sort of fried vegetable ball, and spicy dried peas that make my eyes water and nose run like a tap.
We are instructed by Mr Singh - the Head Teacher, that my son must have a ‘school cut’, clean and cut his nails, and purchase a uniform shirt, school sandals, toothbrush and toothpaste, an exercise book, pencils and a backpack. They also have to have 2 hanker-chiefs to wave, clean, blow noses etc.
We have been offered free tuition in exchange for leaving behind children’s books from Australia for the school library.
If we do not donate the books, then we are asked to pay $10 FJ – which is about $5.50 AU – either way it is a bargain!
Meeting over. Off we head to town.
The haircut wait is over 1 hour, as every kid in town is doing the same thing.
My child is not happy, as he had just had a trim two weeks ago.
The uniform and sandals cost $6 AU each, and I am happy.
School is very different here than Australia.
Children must be in the classroom by 8 am.
The first hour is for cleanliness and hygiene.
(Student mops the porch)
This includes the children cleaning the school classroom and yard.
(this student is cleaning the windows)
It also includes a health check for the kids to ensure clean nails and hair, and the uniform is tidy and washed etc.
(you can see a student sweeping outside the classroom)
Children must bring a toothbrush and toothpaste, and two bottles of water – one bottle is for drinking, and one for washing the teeth.
Teeth are cleaned after lunch each day.
Children called the teacher “ma’am” and “sir”, and great respect is shown.
Mind you, my son was in shock when a boy was smacked 7 X on the head the first day. He also tells me that the teacher left the room and all the kids were yelling. When she came back she got a stick and all the kids that “confessed” got 2 strikes, and all the kids that failed to confess, received 3 whacks with the stick – needless to say, I have instructed him to inform her she is not permitted to touch him with that stick, as he is Australian.
Other rules include parents and teachers must be properly attired to be on school grounds.
Over the knee skirts and covered shoulders for ladies with modest attire, and most men wear a pocket sulu if they teach. Parents can only go on the school grounds for meetings, and must otherwise wait off the school grounds.
(My son at his desk)
Teachers often have meetings and the classrooms are all left unattended – while the boys engage in a bit of rough and tumble. The kids love it!
(The Teacher is in a meeting and the students are left on their own)
School ends at 3.00 pm after the children have cleaned the classroom and yard.
After school my boy is off to play on the beach, or up two trees (which they deem as pirate ships), with his friends Tamsyn and Griffin - who are sailing around the world.
At the end of the first day I ask him how school was.
“It was easy – hard Mum”.
He was way ahead in English, and way behind in Hindi, Fijian and Maths.
As I go to pack him his Vegemite sandwich the next day, he asks me to learn to make “Roti”, the Indian bread so he can be the same as the other kids.
My Indian neighbour tells him to call in each morning and she will make him two Roti rolls with Dahl for his lunch,
I will get an Indian cooking lesson this weekend to learn to make them myself.
Life here is different.
We either walk the 2 km each way to school and our road meanders past the hot springs blowing steam along the shores of the beach, (so my average walk a day is 8 km), and by the creek.
Some-times locals stop to give us a ride which is nice too.
As we head off today, we gaze across the beach to the next island.
I notice we have slowed down.
Nothing is a rush, and I notice we are both smiling.