School black and white
Our school belongings would be stuffed inside boxes and we had to sit on them before we could lock them Image Credit: Artem Maltsev

A new school term has recently begun here in the UAE and elsewhere. After nearly 2 years of the pandemic replacing physical class with online classes, a few false starts at opening up schools and several rounds of that ‘will it, won’t it …’ situation, schools have finally opened its doors to students.

It felt so good to see pictures in the newspapers of teachers and supporting school staff here and in India, welcoming students with smiles and flowers, on the first day.

Experiences and relationships built during school years play such an important role in one’s life, not only in shaping one’s personality but also adding to some fun memories. Who does not love to indulge in the pleasurable task of looking back to school or college days with nostalgia or begin conversations sometimes with the words “When we were in school …”

To think that children all over the world lost 2 precious years of physical class, all because of a tiny invisible virus! And all those 1st time school-goers — the primary and Kindergarten children — who were cheated out of that most wonderful and important experience — of actually getting ready and going off to school.

Letting go 

It’s supposed to be the first step in weaning a child away from the protected environment of a mother’s lap and home and preparing it to enter the world outside.

And needless to say, it is also the stage when a mother learns to let go of her child. I still remember my twin boys’ first day of school — while putting them into the school bus, it’s anybody’s guess as to who was weeping more, the boys or their mother!

There are of course several advantages of attending online classes from the comfort and safety of home, but they cannot possibly be better than if one attended what is now termed as FTF — face to face class. Every generation has its own treasure house of memories and experiences of school.

Ask my father and he’ll instantly begin his reminiscences with how he walked miles and miles in rain or shine to get to school with only one uniform that lasted years and years. This happens to be our favourite story at family gatherings.

My own school and college days were spent in Goa and my siblings and I walked to school and back too every day clutching aluminium school boxes. Our school belongings would be stuffed inside those boxes and we had to sit on them before we could lock them; sometimes the lock jammed … what bliss then!

Learning and lots of fun

As we walked, we would be joined on the way by other school-goers and we formed our little gangs of BFF on the road to school. After the school assembly and a few minutes of physical exercise during which our PT instructor would be the most dreaded person on the premises, we would head off to our respective classrooms to begin a day of some learning and plenty of fun.

Teachers had their favourites among students and although we snorted at the chosen ones, we would secretly vie with each other to be among them. Oh, that feeling when, as a teacher’s pet, one got to carry the duster out into the corridor and bang it against the wall to get the chalk powder off it.

We, of course, took our time doing it and dragged those precious moments to its ultimate, until a jealous classmate reminded the teacher of our ‘outstanding’ presence or when the teacher suddenly noticed she couldn’t find the duster.

Another task was carrying the teacher’s bag and books back to the staff room with her. Being entrusted with this task was a matter of pride and there would be a stampede to get the teacher’s attention. The chosen student would go off with a smug expression on her face and invariably take a wide detour when getting back to class. A walk in the park … well, almost!

It is this treasure-house of memories which, apart from its other benefits, come in handy when we in turn relax in our rocking-chairs and prepare to regale our grand children of the days ‘when we were in school …’

Radhika Acharya is a freelancer based in the UAE