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Published: October 18th 2011
Our voluntary work in Peru took us to the small village of Corao situated in the mountains about 30 minutes bus ride form the city centre. The bus trip itself was always an adventure based on the fact that one never knew at what time the bus would leave, how much it was going to cost and whether the clapped out old banger would make it up the steep hills !!
The school itself was situated in a lovely valley with the steep slopes of the mountains surrounding it. The field outside was usually full of llamas or horses grazing peacefully. There was a wall surrounding the school, forming a compound which consisted of two classrooms adjoined on the one side, a kitchen and dining room on another, a low shed with wood on the other and a wall with a gate through which walked all manner of dogs on the other. The dogs were not usually a problem as they got kicked by the kids at every opportunity!!!
Each class had about 25 children. The class I worked in was for three to four year olds, while Wendy’s was for 5 year olds. There were a few older
children in each class who may have been held back because of illness or special needs.
My dear readers have to understand that neither your correspondent nor W have ever received any training to be teachers nor are we qualified in any manner of childcare. With this in mind, it is obvious why we were left in charge of classes for a number of hours on various occasions!! The two teachers would suddenly announce that they would be back later and wander off leaving us worried and the children ecstatic – they sensed an opportunity for mayhem as there was now only a gringo to supervise them!!!
Indeed, in my class for a few moments, chaos reigned. There were children running around everywhere, grabbing every toy they could find, throwing their work on to the ground and generally behaving in a manner that would never have crossed my mind as a school child, until they noticed something. The gringo was not getting angry. He just sat and watched them and then accidentally thrust a child back into it’s seat a little too forcefully which brought forth pain and tears. This seemed to have a calming effect on the
Not that your correspondent continued to use the threat of physical violence to keep them under control. Well, not always. In fact the only other time was when a young tearaway named Eduardo had grabbed some other child’s schoolbag and was running away with it. He made the mistake of running a bit too close to me and I just tripped him up which sent him flying to the ground. All eyes stared as he picked himself up, tears in his eyes but determined not to cry. The schoolbag was safely returned to the owner, so justice prevailed. I asked a fellow volunteer ( Mary from Ulster who is a teacher ) if I would have been suspended for such actions in UK, to which she said no, not suspended, but sacked on the spot and arrested !!!
Fabricio was a lad in my class. He had the face of an angel and when he wanted to could charm the proverbial birds from the trees. Sadly, this did not happen too often and the rest of the time there was a queue of children and teachers who wanted to thump him. He had a very strange approach
to school. He would walk up to a fellow pupil (male or female) and just thump or bite them. Now, to this day your correspondent still does not know what Fabricio thought would happen next. Did he think his victims would run away crying, or perhaps drop to one knee and proclaim him lord and master?? Well, neither really, they just thumped him back twice as hard and he would then make wild accusations that he was attacked. Sadly in our last week there, the teachers had had enough of his antics and after talking to his mother, it was decided that he should find another school.
An undoubted highlight during our time here (apart from having to put countless jigsaws back together after the kids decided they were too difficult) was a school trip out!! Even this was not without issues. Originally the teachers had planned a day out to a nearby town called Urubamba which had a great play park for the kids and seemed perfect. The mothers of the children however, had a different idea and there was a high level debate which the mothers won. No more Urubamba, but a journey to a Dinosaur park!!!
Great idea I thought. Instead of having to look after 50 kids in a confined space of 50 square metres, they now had several acres in which to disrupt the laws of nature! Many things happened that day, but my highlight was the mother’s football game. In goal was a lady carrying her baby on her back in a shawl!!!
We had a great time at the school and the kids took to us well. We gave presentations on our countries and joined in all their fun, although many of them will be receiving therapy long into their lives after having to listen to me singing Flower of Scotland to them.
The look of terror on their faces will stay with me for a long, long time.
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