After a week of no classes, I was ready to get back to work on Monday, but as it turned out, Monday was a holiday. Then Tuesday was a holiday as well (World AIDS Day), although it was supposed to be a “working holiday,” and everyone informed me that work would indeed continue as usual. The students apparently felt differently and decided not to show up for school, and although the principal assured me that school was in session, with no students there, the fact that school was technically “open” was really a moot point.
Today, again, there were no morning classes, and instead we had an inauguration ceremony to induct the new student government. It was actually pretty entertaining. Ceremonies here are very similar to ceremonies in Kenya in a lot of ways – there's a great deal of emphasis on formality and strict rules are observed in terms of the hierarchy of speakers. A printed program is created with 15 or 16 specific bullet points, the first and the last of which are always prayer. Every person who speaks must first greet the audience in order of their importance – for example, today, every person who took the microphone opened with something like “Distinguished guest speaker, invited guests, principal, faculty and staff of the high school, students from neighboring schools, students of the Multilateral High School, ladies, and gentlemen – good morning.” (Pause for applause). The biggest and most welcome difference here seems to be that the ceremonies usually last about an hour or so, whereas in Kenya they could go on for three or four hours, often through lunchtime, and often with several of the speakers lecturing in the local dialect.
Anyway, even though it was a little frustrating to have classes be canceled AGAIN, the ceremony itself was neat. The choir sang several songs, and the drama club performed a short skit. Aside from simply providing entertainment, which they did, these performances gave a really interesting insight into some of the attitudes, priorities, and problems here. One song in particular had what seemed like a very appropriate message for a country attempting to recover from war – the title was “Forget the past, remember the future.” It included a really beautifully sung section about a mother not having enough money to buy food and then crying until she can't cry anymore.
The drama club performance was interesting too. It was an anti-corruption skit about an official (or maybe a school president?) who stole money, and then avoided being caught by bribing every other person who threatened to turn him in. The skit included such lines as this (in response to a parent who threatens to turn the official over to the authorities): “You have three children who are not in school because you cannot pay their school fees. How can you turn down the money I am offering you?” (In the skit, and I'm sure most of the time in real life, the parent couldn't turn down the money). If this topic seems not completely appropriate for a high school president swearing-in, one of the speakers mentioned that in 2006 a big chunk of money being managed by the school government mysteriously went missing. (Yet another example of how the pervasive corruption problem starts early and persists at every level of society).