|Don't assume that February and March will actually include that much school, |
it's just too early to know about the unexpected stuff.
I live with another teacher from my school and the headmaster of another local school, so if anyone should be in the know about whether or not school is running, it’s me. But that hasn’t really been my experience. Here is a quick guide to determining whether or not school will be open based on my diligent observations and questioning in a desperate search for answers:
1. Be sure to say “see you tomorrow!” to everyone you encounter at school. Hopefully one of the dozens of students and teachers will pipe up if it has already been determined that school will be closed the following day.
2. Don’t count too strongly on strategy number one. It probably works 50% of the time.
3. Try to make friends with people who are well-connected to the grapevine. This provides access to rumors about upcoming bandhs or poorly publicized local holidays that are approaching. Any kind of a rumor, no matter how seemingly ridiculous, is enough to indicate that school may or may not be closed.
4. Don’t spend too much time asking people. When confronted directly with the question “Is there school tomorrow or not?” in English or in Nepali, most will say “there may be school tomorrow.” Which is a frustratingly vague answer.
5. Definitely don’t try to get an answer the night before. It’s too early. No one knows.
6. In the morning, check with your host family. Questions like “are you going to school today?” generally receive a more informative answer than “is there school today?” Even though it would seem like within three hours of school starting a decision would be clear. If you don’t get a clear answer, check back in 45 minutes; kind of like shaking a magic 8 ball until it gives you what you want.
7. If on the way to school you pass an entire soccer field full of students from grade three, don’t assume this means that school is closed. Simply make a note that class three will be smaller than usual.
8. When in doubt, take everything with you to school on the assumption that even though less than half of the staff have showed up the school will still run and you will suddenly be in charge of way more classes than normal. At least the student numbers will also be running below half so even when the headsir says “you take grades one AND two” the class size won’t be terribly overwhelming.
9. Even if school is running, don’t assume that it will be a full day. Assume that any adult approaching your classroom, at any time during the day, is coming to announce that everyone is leaving at 12:00 or 1:30 or right now. NOTE: DO NOT listen to older students who deliver the same message, always wait for a credible adult who you can identify if later asked “who told you to let all the grade ones go running out the gate?”
10. Laugh. Go with the flow. Bat away a single tear as the time you were going to use to teach that great new game with rhyming words is snatched out from under you. Enjoy the six kids who actually showed up – be sure you know their names and give them an extra star just for coming when no one else did. Sigh as you develop a deeper understanding of why teachers in Nepal are frustrated beyond belief and have no interest in lesson/unit planning. Why plan for a day that may or may not happen? Force a smile when you walk past the seven teachers enjoy their leisure period outside while you run between classes wondering how there can possibly be any spare adults on a day like today. Take the long way home when the day ends three hours early. Buy yourself a pack of oreos at the grocery store to remind yourself that somewhere in the world things are different. Then eat a huge plate of daal bhat to remind yourself that you’re in Nepal whether school runs today or not.