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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Keeping Education in Perspective

Our Geography teacher at school was Mr J.B. Clarke. J.B. loved three things – rugby, athletics and his wife. We were never sure of the order.

Naturally J.B. took the Ist 15 Rugby team. He was also in charge of the athletics coaching in the school. His wife had taken part in the Olympics as a hurdler. They were a talented and hard working family. The type of family team that is the backbone of every school.

In the year preceding our `O’ Level examinations a new Athletic track was carved out of the side of the hill. The grass was planted and as usual we waited for the rains. Then came the collision. The examinations took place just after sports day. The field was covered with little rocks and stones. J.B. wanted his field to be perfect. Where could he find the labour? Naturally his thoughts turned to his classes.

Period after period boys walked down to the field. Little piles of stones grew. The school tractor collected the stones and deposited them in a small ravine at the foot of the track. Naturally there were some grumbles about this forced labour from some of the boys – and we understood that one or two parents queried the amount of time their boys were out of the classroom.

Our Geography class missed nearly the whole term before the examination out on the field. The rains came rather late. The weeds thrived. Piles of screw drivers arrived. We then worked our way down the field digging out weeds. Our last Geography class before the examinations arrived. J.B. asked us if we wanted to go over any of the syllabus. The sun was shining. The class asked to go outside.

Very few of us passed the Geography examination. The field, however, looked magnificent. The hills were in the background. The grass was green. The rows of chairs were marshalled uniformly. Most of the women wore hats. There were fine and stirring words from all concerned. There was no mention of the time the boys had spent on the field.

Now every parent involved in the eleven plus will hope that their children do as well as possible. Children, as examinations grow closer, need gifted and involved teachers. Why would I remember Mr. J.B. Clarke’s name? Quite simply he loved his job. I am sure that academic success was important to J.B. – but he felt that there was a time and place for everything.

Taking time off every now and again from the pressures of study and school work can not be bad in the long run. It is simply a matter of trying to keep it all in perspective.

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