Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vanishing varnish

In Zimbabwe, we have a pre-soak washing detergent called "Vanish". Thus I had another 'Zimglish' moment yesterday when Preacher, one of the Maids at the hotel, advised me that she had found a pillowcase stained with hair dye, was going to soak it in varnish!

Not so sure that will help.

At La Rochelle I built a school. There was a time about 8 years ago that the government decided to interfere in private schooling, and the end result was that several concerned parents and I got together and we built a small school. It really is very small - we have an average of just 4 children per class, but we have some very dedicated and capable teachers - so much so that we now have a reputation for producing children with excellent academic grounding.

When the children progress to High School, they have to write a 'Common Entrance' examination - this is a standard exam written throughout Zimbabwe, and pupils submit their papers to their 'school of first choice'. They are then either accepted or rejected based on their performance in that exam. This year our school had three girls who submitted their completed papers to Peterhouse - and out of 180 children who applied, all three were all in the top twenty. Not bad.

Because our school is small, and because we don't pay anyone except the teachers, most of the administration work is done by parents on a pro bono basis. I handle the applications for future places, and generally interact with prospective parents. Following a 'school readyness assessment' interview that we conduct prior to accepting children for Grade 1, we have identified and accepted four children who will start at the school in January 2013. Before a child can begin at the school, we ask for a  "desk fee" from every child. This money is used to run the school for the following year - not necessarily for purchasing desks, but all the stationary and equipment that will be needed, such as exercise books, pens, chalk, etc. We hold a little back for repairs and maintenance and so on.

One child that we have accepted had been brought to the assessment by his mother, Roxy. yesterday I was called down to the hotel where a gentleman introduced himself a 'Alan - Roxy's husband'. He had come to pay the Desk Fee, and I introduced myself and accepted the money. While I could remember the mother, Roxy, I had a sudden blank regarding the child she had brought for interview. However I recalled the surname, and made the receipt out in that name.

Another thing that I do for the school is to arrange for Preacher, when she is not varnishing pillowcases, to sew the school uniforms for the girls. The boys have a standard shorts and shirt uniform, but the girls have a sky-blue pinnafore which we make on the sewing machine at the top of the tower. However we do not keep a stock of these pinnafores, and make them on demand. Thus we need to measure the children, and make every uniform to order. Realising that we had not made a pinnafore for Roxy's daughter (whose name I still could not recall), I then said to Alan "You will have to bring her in for me to measure. Any time would be fine"

Alan looked at me a little strangely, but agreed to do so. We then discussed other matters such as accommodation in the nearby town (they live about an hour away from the school) and sport. Then, out of the blue, it dawned on me...............

Roxy's daughter is called Dillon!

A boy.


Alan had apparently assumed that I wanted him to bring in his wife for me to measure! And he had agreed to do so. No wonder he had looked at me strangely! Asking to be allowed to measure people's wives the first time that I meet them is not normally a thing I do - but if such ready and willing agreement is given, I may well consider doing so in future!

Below are our correct school uiforms, with the school in the background. All of it.

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