The end of the school year was on Friday, June 22nd, at twelve o'clock. For a while, a French teacher called Salima and I had been preparing a short drama show with the same class, each of us blithely unknowing of what the other was doing. It was one of the kids who told each one of us what they were doing with the other, so we got together and worked out - albeit at the last minute - a three-quarters-of-an-hour-long show for the class, which would be repeated four times on the morning of the last Friday of school, and to which the other classes in that year would be invited with their teachers, assuming these latter did not wish to conduct their normal lessons with a maximum of four or five pupils per class. Then came the idea that I'd had and talked about with one of the music teachers : why not, if we can, get all the pupils in the school singing together under the big tree in the playground? They'd worked on two main songs this year, one with the two lower levels, one with the two higher levels, so it should work out. Bring in the music teacher as a singer and soloist, the other music teacher as a percussionist, Philip on the guitar, can't go wrong. That was the theory, anyway.
After a bit of preparation, the first show kicked off twenty minutes late. Salima - my Mahorese French-teacher colleague - had started decorating some of the girls' faces, but couldn't finish in time, so those had to be done as we went along. One boy was absent, so that was that for the rest of his group. A larger group had one missing as well, but gaily substituted whoever was nearest without a fuss. A girl suddenly turned up after having been absent for all the rehearsals, making a fuss because we wouldn't let her on stage. A boy I didn't know decided he wanted to play music on his telephone and sing gangsta rap over the top. We got there, though.
We had a total of four sketches, two in English and two in French, all written by the kids. The first two were teacher-student sketches : teacher welcomes students, students sit down and mess about, teacher shouts, teacher gives back tests, student has bad mark, teacher shouts, student says it wasn't him/her, teacher doesn't listen and sends student out, teacher calls next name on list, happens to be the student he/she has just sent out, teacher fetches student. Teacher writes on board, teacher turns her back, students go outside quietly, teacher finds out, teacher shouts. Cue laughs from audience. The third sketch was about a girl who feels ill, her sister takes her to hospital, they find out she's pregnant and this becomes a family drama because she's not married. The cries of "Oh, my poor sister, my poor sister" in English with a Mahorese accent were priceless. The fourth sketch was about a boy who'd told two girls that he loved them and that they were beautiful, etc. The girls turned out to be best friends, brought the boy to the front and stage-slapped him. The final scene was boy-meets-new-girl, says she's beautiful... They did a good job, overall it was very amusing.
Then came what I saw as the best part : traditional dancing and singing. Salima sang, and the kids on stage and in the audience repeated the song while dancing in a line. She'd brought the same salouva for everybody, so the overall effect was good for kids of 13-15 years old.
Most of the girls had decorated each others' faces by then, so I took photos of them. Certainly makes a difference from highlighter and marker-pen tattoos.
We repeated the same show three times, with different spectators each time. Some teachers came back all three times and brought three different classes, others came once and stayed for ten minutes, congratulated us on a good show and scarpered. There were an awful lot of kids in the audience most of the time, enough children to make us start threatening them with instant expulsion from the show should they contine chatting.
We were both really pleased with the kids, who had even improvised a bit on the French sketches. These sketches - all written by the kids - also showed how they saw us. We shout, we don't give them a chance to explain, we don't listen to them, we push them out of their chairs and out of the door, and when we're wrong, we don't admit it. Hmm. However, a lot of kids I'd never seen before said hello to me as I drove home, so we must be doing something right.
We were originally supposed to repeat it a fourth time as well, but soon after we'd started the fourth, pupils started disappearing and one or two came running back saying the others had started singing. By which time we had half the audience left and three-quarters of the actors saying "what do we do now, miss". Sent them off to sing with the others, closed the door and went along to see if everything was under control.
With the help of the school's two music teachers, we'd got another idea going. The students had been working on a couple of distinctive songs this year, and all the classes had sung at least one of these two songs at some point during the year. So we asked them if we could get the whole school singing together, half one song, half the other. One of the two songs happened to be "Oh Happy Day", the other was a traditional South African song. P volunteered to play the guitar, one of the music teachers played percussion, the other was to be the lead singer. They decided it was worth a try and got the students working towards that goal, while I got permission from high-up. Ready to roll. And roll they did. Unfortunately, they started rolling in the middle of the last show, which turned out to be because some of the students had started bringing outside people into the school and the discipline people wanted the singing to get under way before everything got out of hand.
There were a lot of kids on the stage, and a lot of kids watching. After the two songs, various groups of kids went up on stage to sing, dance or whatever. It got a bit long-winded and messy at that point, as the music teacher in charge of the sound system wanted to please the kids on their last day and had trouble saying when to stop. Overall, though, I think we all put on a good show.