I saw a school opening today, all by myself of course. Or at least it felt that way…
It was an interesting mix of passionate, meaningful speeches, segregation, and abuse. I must have won the lottery.
One of the first things I noticed walking up the steps to the opening ceremony were the older schoolboys wearing armbands. You know, like Hitler’s Youth wore. Not quite the same actually. These armbands just meant you were in charge. You were allowed to whip the younger schoolchildren to keep them in line.
I had seen this before, but usually the boys hold sticks. This time, they had gotten a hold of rubber tubing. Each had a segment of tubing about three feet in length. And if all the younger children came running up the steps to sit down for the ceremony (before it had begun), the older boys would whip at their legs and chase them off. The older boys really enjoyed this responsibility. It was humorous and a little disheartening. Those whips hurt I bet.
The second thing I noticed was that after all the children had been seated (finally, after a few bouts of whipping), was that there were no women or girls. I thought at first, “Well it’s a boy’s school, of course.”
This was not the case. The women and girls began filing in, and all the men and boys made sure they had their own seating- to the left of the actual ceremony in some tents.
I couldnt believe they were making them all sit in such an awkward place. But even though the boundaries of American political correctness had been obviously crossed, I also couldn’t help noticing that these men who ran the new school had unwittingly done the women and girls a favor. It was brutally hot outside, and they were able to sit in the coolness of the shade while the rest of us sweat ourselves to dehydration and dry throats.
Last but not least, and in fact, most surprising and heart warming, were the speeches given. There was much talk about the “need for knowledge in Afghanistan,” and, “learning will make Afghanistan like other countries, such as America.” And while these are some good points, the most notable speech was in English… and given by a 16 year old.
He was introduced with this line, “And now [name] will give his speech using the English language.” Sure enough, the 16 year old who stopped me just before the ceremony and asked, “after the ceremony, can I converse with you in English so I can practice?,” stood up in front of everyone.
He spoke very quickly. You could tell he just wanted so badly to make his point clear. He was passionate. He really believed what he was saying. This is how he started:
“Teachers deserve our respect as students. Teachers are like a flame that keeps us lit. Teachers are like a flower, that spreads it’s seeds so other may grow. We need the knowledge our teachers give us, so they must be respected. Without knowledge, we are nothing.”
He went on to describe ignorant people, and how they are not wanted.
“You do not throw a party and invite the ignorant, because no one wants the ignorant amongst knowledgable people. You do not elect an ignorant man as president either, you need a scholar, for he needs to know all that is going on in the country, he has to know our needs.”
I wish I had been able to converse with him after the ceremony, but I had to leave. I do hope his message got through to the other students though.
I just can’t help but wonder, everytime I would turn around during the ceremony and see the line of students with whips behind the seated crowd, what those schoolboys were thinking the whole time.
I’m guessing something like, “Come on… just one of you squirts try to get up for something…” and maybe when the 16 year old spoke, and in response to his claim that without knowledge, they are nothing, they thought, “Nothing!? Who’s standing here with the whip? Me or you? We’ll see who’s nothing after the ceremony is over.”