Saturday, 24 November 2007

All in a day’s work

In the last year, when we were in England, I’d get up at 6am and arrive in a primary school of my choice by 7-30am ready to start the day. It’s a bit away from the norm here. Every day is different and a few days ago I found myself going off on my own to Region 2, Anna Regina for a day’s work. In truth I was supposed to go with others but that particular project fell through (as they often do) and I’d made arrangements to meet up with some Headteacher trainees and I like to keep my commitments no matter how inconvenient it is. Region Two is goodness knows how many miles up the North Western coast across 2 major rivers.

So, at 4-45am I got up, had my usual porridge and banana (good diabetes food) and at 6am (the same time as in England), I left home. Not on my bike, but in the Ministry vehicle (pronounced vayeekal) with Patrick the driver and Tom Jones for company. Driving through Georgetown, most people were just waking up – that is the street people in the doorways, in cardboard boxes and anywhere that would provide them with a little shelter from the sun that hits Guyana about 5-30am at this time of year. If ever I felt privileged to have what I have, it was then. Fifteen minutes and we were at the entrance to the floating bridge across the Demerara – the longest floating bridge in the world over the river that gave the sugar its name. Off the other side and a record 35 minutes to Parika, the entrance to the Essequibo River where all of the bananas, the melons, plantains and a thousand and one other local products arrive early in the morning ready for market before most people have even opened their eyes. A bit different from the Croydon Flyover!

40 minutes in a ridiculously fast speedboat with spray equal to any surfer’s dream and we are entering Supernam where an array of local bus and taxi drivers spot the “Whitey” and think he has enough money to hire them all! No, not really, just on a local wage and my transport from Region 2 is waiting for me 1 hour and three quarters early. Unusual for Guyana but not unusual for my guide and contact Mr Persaud, one of my Master Trainers, whose attention to detail surpasses the rest of Guyana put together. In 2003, he was voted the best Headteacher running the best school in Guyana. What an honour and a privilege to be with him. He’s a Hindu, a Pandit and a Justice of the Peace and he gave up a special Hindu celebration to ensure that I was comfortable. It makes you feel very humble. Thirty minutes later and we were at his home where he gave me breakfast and was given a very warm welcome by his wife. Another thirty minutes later and we were at the Education Office meeting the Regional Educational Officer.

We arranged to visit some schools and firstly went to Anna Regina Multilateral School, had a discussion with the Head who had been a trainee on the course I supervise and I asked for a look around the school. Five minutes later, a teacher came to me and told me the children are ready for me – 30 second notice of an assembly for 1,100 boys and girls! Well, I delved into my store of assemblies in the recesses of my brain and away I went. Lovely kids!

Then, off to an even larger Primary school where I met up with some HT trainees and the Head and after an hour, back to Mr Persaud’s for lunch cooked by his niece – curried chicken, dhal, salad and fresh fruit. They’re vegetarian, so they went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

Then off to Abram Zuil Secondary school, just down the road, Mr Persaud’s school, from where he retired last year, to meet with the Head, the staff and 24 Trainee Heads who had come from all over the region to listen to what I had to say about Leadership and Financial Management. Two hours later, I was whisked off back to Supernam for the return speedboat. Well, the day’s ebbing and flowing, a thousand speedboats, the tide, the sun, the banana boats and the consequences of the rain on the waves and wash had had a serious effect on the ability of the boat to stay in a straight line or even make contact with the water. It was exciting to say the least and an hour “under the tarp to keep dry” resulted in a soggy Stephen making his way through Stabroek Market searching for a minibus home.

I arrived back exactly 12 hours after I left but, oh my word, what a day and

“It’s all in a day’s work”.