Where nothing ever happens

TINY tears kept trying to creep into my eyes as I waved goodbye to the five-year-old granddaughter, Tufaan Taylor, the Hurricane of Flagstaff, off to her first day of school.

She trotted confidently down the driveway in her new uniform and slightly too big new sandals, with her new Elsa and Anna backpack, her hand in her mother’s. They were heading for the school at the top of our street in Darkest Flagstaff, the one that had given, somehow, a decent beginning to the education of her mother and aunt.

The incipient tears were not all of relief that the kindergarten holidays were finally over. The scene brought back memories of 30-something years ago when I was holding the hand of her mum, the Hope of the Side, headed for the first day of school.

Her aaji had stitched her little blue uniforms and her grandma crocheted some weird curly hair ties that looked like matching blue worms. We took pictures on the veranda and escorted her to the school gate, where she left some of us in proud tears as she toddled off to her classroom. She shed not a single moist drop, she was gung ho for the school experience.

Grandma and aaji were there to welcome her home again, ply her with an afterschool snack and attempt to hear all about her first school day.

As usual, according to most children in response to most questions about their activities, nothing happened.

Nothing continued to happen throughout the years to Form Six, as it was then, although we did notice a few milestones along the way.

I didn’t hear about nothing happening at school until I got home from work each day. As I walked up the driveway I would be greeted by a little head rising over the veranda railing bleating “mum, mum, mum”.

Not even a chance to get my shoes off and the kettle on before I had to hear about what the dog did in the living room (that accounted for the pong), what happened to the car when dad drove too close to the drain, what sort of shoes she wanted now that the strap on her sandals had busted and how nothing at all happened at school.

This was a child who left the house each morning in pristine condition, hands and knees clean, hair tied up in regulation style, buttons done up, belt on, and sandals unbroken.

She returned looking as if she had been dragged through drains, grubby, hair flying everywhere, at least one button gone and the belt. What belt?

Her little sister, Cuddles the Thug, claims that we took her to the school on the first day and abandoned her. But she tricked us and found her own way home.

Hardly a feat of genius, we live in the same street and she had been in the school grounds countless times with her sister. But throughout her school years it always seemed to take an unconscionably long time for her to get from the school gate to home, so it is possible she kept getting lost.

She said, it was because she got interested in all the things in the drain on the way home. We had quite a collection of drain fish in a big glass vase, but the day we had to go out and look for her was when she found the dead cat. That provided weeks of fascination, apparently.

Tufaan was also delighted to be going to school and was definitely not forgotten at home time, although she complained that she was being collected too early. Every day.

She was intact, sandals so far unbroken and carrying the same backpack she left home with. Also the same lunchbox with the same lunch.

Nourishing the school child with healthy food is still a challenge, no matter how cute you make the sandwiches with sultana eyes and smiley cheese mouths or the apple sliced to show the stars inside.

The school curriculum is apparently still the same – Tufaan also claims nothing happens.

All I can say is that our school provided an education that has taken our team to places that make parents proud, and where they made the most amazing cohort of loyal friends that have lasted since kindy and class one. They still rock up from wherever life has taken them for significant birthdays and other events.

Tufaan seems to be following the same tradition, her friend comes home with her every day and they tell us how nothing happened at school.

All parents everywhere in Fiji worry about the quality of education being provided for their children and they all have high hopes it will lead their youngsters to the achievements they desire and provide what they need to lead enjoyable lives and have satisfying careers. I wish it too, for all our children.

? The views expressed are the author’s and not of this newspaper.

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