Part 4 – Elementary School And Some More of Village Life.

The school played an important part in village life so I will attempt to describe it in a little more detail. The above pictures of the school, church and cemetery are not exactly the same when I was growing up but it is close. I am not sure what year it was taken.

It stood on a hill along the Southern Main Road. It was a two-storey(British term for 2 floors) building that probably accommodated plus or minus 350 students. On one side of the school, along the road was the local cemetery. It extended backwards to I would say half – to 1mile to the back and was also sloping downwards. The cemetery were mostly just graves with a few tombs but there was one tomb that stood out more than the others. It had a tiny building structure which was called ‘Ajodhasingh’s tomb’, so it served as a marker to anyone trying to describe where their loved one was buried. We did not have any relative buried there because being a Hindu we burned the dead. The land extended further backwards, and no one lived at the back.

Directly at the back of the school was a paved area that extended to the church yard and we called it ‘the courtyard’. It was large enough for the whole of the upper floor (consisted of standard 4-6 grades) students to line up when the school bell rang. You then proceeded in single file to enter the school.

Students in 4-6 standards (similar to 4-6 grades like in the US but not equivalent) were designated into one of five houses, sort of like in the Harry Potter movie. Each house represented one day of the week. You were required to wear a button with the color of your house (I remember having a white button) so if you did something everyone knew which house you belonged to. The main thing the houses were created for was sports day and cleaning/beautifying the school premises. On sports day, you tied or wore a ribbon of your house as you took part in running, walking races, egg and spoon and other races. The other house duties were sweeping the classroom and the school yard and making sure the flower beds at the front of the school looked good. (We had no janitors). A senior student was appointed house captain and together with a teacher was responsible to designating duties.  It was like this- Monday house will do the cleaning on Monday and Tuesday would clean on Tuesday etc. A teacher would be judging the whole week on who did the best job. Whichever house did the best job was the winner for that week. I don’t remember if there were any rewards.

At the back of the paved area the land dropped sharply so it was a steep slope. (Over the years the land began to cave in. I don’t know what it looks like today and they have built a new school). There was a track back there with patches of bamboo growing. We called it the bamboo patch. We could not play there because it was a little treacherous. It was a bit scary because the tall bamboo grew like in a grove so the sunlight did not filter in in certain areas and it would be dark. Also it was adjacent to the cemetery and we (all school kids) were afraid of ghosts. But it did not stop us. Sometimes during lunch-time we would dare each other to go in the bamboo patch or the cemetery. You never pointed to a grave or else the ghost would get you. If you did then you had to slightly bite your fingers. Lol.

The school had school concerts where lots of people in the village would attend. It was also a place for the Village Council to meet. The village council was made of a few people from the village about village affairs. I honestly don’t know what they did because my father never attended.

The school and the church raised money by holding bazaars. A bazaar is like a fair with goodies to eat and games to play. It had games like bobbing for apples or spin the wheel for a chance of winning a trinket. It was very similar to those in the US back then. So, it is not unusual that it was a place for local boys to check out or meet local girls.

The school was also used as a place where these vans would come to immunize the villagers. I remember getting vaccinated against polio and small pox.

In the time of no TV, the school was a place to get some news. The news was brought through “film shows”( film projection). For example, news of how and why the need was there to be vaccinated against polio, or any kind of political or world news. Someone would drive around the village in a car with a “Mike”( this was 2 megaphones facing opposite directions attached to the hood of car. It was very loud) announcing when the film show will be held at a particular date and time. People were always excited to see a film show.

I have to digress a little from the school here to talk about how we got the latest news etc.

When I was small I only remember seeing only like two or three film shows and as the world changed more people had radios. (We only got a TV when I was like in my late teens). I don’t know exactly how many people had radios. There were only 2 radio stations at the time.

I remember we would listen on the radio to the “BBC World News.” From London. Around 7 o’clock every evening the transmission on the radio would begin – “This is the voice of the British Broadcasting service operating at (can’t remember the frequency number)’’ and it would make a noise of the radio transmitter (shhhh). They would say another line and then it would go make another noise. So, it was a live radio transmission that came through the radio station studio. My father was an avid listener of daily news so we all became avid listeners of the daily news 😊.

The radio was an important part of life. We would hear news from the island and from America. We knew of the Presidents that got elected, the space race, the moon landing and I remember we liked John F Kennedy. We heard all the music that tantalized America such as the Beatles and all the other popular music. There was country music too and a favorite on the island was Jim Reeves. I can still hear his haunting melody “If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do. The angels beckoned me” etc. We had few Indian radio programs( Hindi songs etc). It was half hour early in the morning (around 6 am)where it was more inspirational and then an hour in the evening. – In one station it would be half an hour in the evening with Hans Hanuman Singh and on the other station half an hour with Pat Mathura. Here we would listen to music from Hindi movies and many people would know the famous actors and the famous movies. On Hindu religious festivals days, we would hear Bhajans and kirtans. On Muslim holiday celebrations there would be a program wishing everyone ‘Eid Mubarak etc.’

As time went by, we would eventually see movies at the drive-in theater in Point Fortin. Since it was a bunch of us, my father would have one or two of my elder brothers hide in the trunk of the car while he bought the tickets( tickets were sold on head count). This was very common thing with some people attending the drive-in. I am not sure how many people in the village attended but I can tell you that in every household there was an average of 7-12 children.

The Rousillac Presbyterian Church was on the other side of the school along the main road. At the back of the church stood the church bell. I think they rang it on certain occasions. Here the land also sloped downwards to a large flat area. You had to be careful going down. This flat area was like a large field. It was here they would have sports day or where the local boys played cricket. I played one or two cricket games here when I was a teenager and had joined this teenage youth group. It did not last long but just had the experience of play on the field. It was not completely flat. While running to catch a ball your foot could get stuck in a hole and you can twist your ankle and fall down. I remember one of my brothers saying that it was so because people would tie their cow there and it created these little holes. Since it was in the tropics we had very rainy weather, so if it was soggy a lot,  and I can see it getting these holes as the cattle grazed there. When the school used it, it was no longer used for cattle but that remnant was there and there was no money to fix that.

Next to this field was a large area of bushes, trees and shrubs. There was a track also to go further into the bush where it was real forest like. Among the bushes there were several tiny tracks that resulted from human traffic going back and forth. I remember there was a house way to the back here.

So, this area was perfect to play hide and seek or catch me if you can. We usually got an hour for lunch so us kids would finish eating(I went home for lunch because I lived so close and would hurry back to school after eating) and hustle to the back of the school to play in this area. It was here that this weird, not so good experience happened.

I was around 8 years of age and it was a fine sunny day. My friends and I were playing in these bushes together with most of the school. Then out of nowhere this boy from another class(so I did not know him) came and kissed me right on my cheek. All the boys and the girls began to laugh and I started to cry. The girls said ” go and tell the teacher, go and tell the principal”. I was crying the whole way as made my way over the field, up the hill on my way to the principal office. A lot of kids were following me to see what would happen.

Check back to see what transpired. You will not be disappointed 😊

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