I asked why none of the students’ paintings were displayed anywhere and was told that “none of the teachers were Art specialists”!? But why couldn’t the children just draw anything colourful to be displayed? I was told “Last year two students could draw well, but there are none this year”!? I was shown a library with quite a few books (though none in colour or with pictures) and was told that students borrowed books every week - but a layer of dust told another story. The “Materials Room” was locked at first but, once we got in, I was amazed by shelf upon shelf of globes, test-tubes, weather measuring machines, stopclocks, etc. But, as most of it was still wrapped in plastic bags, I asked how often teachers used these resources. “Never - they are too busy” was the perplexing reply. I spied a shelf full of beautiful posters, covered in dust. I asked why these couldn’t be put up in the classrooms to liven the rooms up. “No. Impossible. We have exams”!? I pointed out these were pictures of rabbits and flowers - hardly any use for cheating in exams. Blank looks from the teachers – brightening up the classroom seemed to be a totally foreign concept! In the playground, I asked how come all the basketball hoops had been broken off. I was told they had actually been deliberately removed to stop the students playing basketball, as the balls were damaging the hedges!? I was gobsmacked.
So, such is the teaching culture here that almost anything is seen as more important than the students and their education. Beautiful hedges are more important than exercise and fun, colourful posters rot in dark rooms whilst classrooms remain bare, libraries stay locked for fear of books actually being used, and children’s art cannot be displayed unless it is prize-winning. Schools here certainly have their problems, but some also have ready solutions and there seems to be a complete inability to connect the two!