I had to collect my son from school early on Wednesday of the week before last, because the school fell down.
It sounds like the punchline to a cheesy joke, or some schoolboy’s fantasy, but here in the dump of a Sicilian town where I live, it has happened to three other schools already and is not funny at all.
Here’s a picture of one of the ceilings that was caught in a metal net:
Why was the net there? Because the ceiling in one of the classrooms of this same school fell down four years ago and the wire netting was put up as a precaution so the children could get an education until the summer holidays, when it would be mended properly.
Except it wasn’t mended properly, and this time the headmistress’s office was the part that fell down the most. I think some of the children shared my personal disappointment that she survived.
So, who is teaching the children while they cannot enter the school without risking their lives?
Nobody is giving lessons. The kids are at home or roaming the streets like truants.
After a week with no school, the headmistress arranged for a school in the next town to be used during the afternoon, from 2pm to 7pm, for lessons. I took my son there on Wednesday, and he was one of the only two children from the entire school to be there. I was bombarded with phonecalls from mothers telling me they “had decided” to boycott the afternoon solution because they wanted arrangements for the use of a building in our village, during the morning. Nobody actually called me a “scab” for breaking the strike, but they made their positions clear.
The Maternal Mafia was joined by two of my son’s teachers, who said they had left their own children at home as part of the boycott.
“At home alone, or at home with relatives?” I asked the Kiddo’s maths teacher.
“At home with my mother,” she answered, defensively.
“Yeah my mother is in England in a wheelchair, you see,” I explained, “so while I do my job, my son watches TV for 8 hours straight. He burst into tears yesterday and sobbed for half an hour without knowing why. Social isolation is bad for all of us, isn’t it?”
Then I pointed out to all of the teachers that the LAW OF THE LAND decrees it is my legal obligation to ensure my child receives an education, and the state’s legal obligation to provide one free of charge. I told them I agree with their demands but that I think my son should continue receiving an education whilst I protest.
Eventually I got more phonecalls from the Maternal Mafia, more persistent this time, in an orchestrated series, and involving shouting. So today I succumbed to peer pressure and did not take my son to school.
I am still angry that I am being put under this pressure to deprive my son of an education, not only by parents but even by the teachers. I am angry that the school fell down and injured some of the kids four years ago and the council did nothing. I am angry that this has happened in three other schools here already and none of them has been fixed. We are going to end up like Africans with the children having lessons under a tree.
Above all I am angry with myself that I came to live in the Third World, where this kind of thing can happen, where it is in fact commonplace enough to be considered “normal”, and where it is even an option that my son is deprived of an education so he can be used as a political instrument.
I have put up with no running water for a year, I have put up with power cuts and no electricity on an almost daily basis this summer, sometimes lasting 12 hours at a time, and I have put up with rubbish mounting in the streets all around me until it sat in rotting heaps bigger than dump trucks.
But when the school falls down and my son’s physical safety is put at risk, and the Maternal Mafia wants him deprived of an education, enough is enough.
Screw you Sicily. Seriously, screw you.