South African School Awards vs American School Awards

I’ve written about the South African House vs the American House, and the South African Teenager vs the American Teenager. I’ve also compared schools quite extensively, but today I’d like to talk more specifically about award ceremonies at school.

On the surface, there is not that much to complain about those we’ve had here in the United States. They are always very well planned out, they last exactly as long as advertised, and you might even get someone to direct the parking. Organization is the name of the game.

But that is where the love stops. Because they are unforgivably boring. Since our school here is much bigger than Dainfern College, they also last much longer. Thank god we don’t have them very often, or I’d probably be caught out for using my cellphone in school. It’s already so tempting to text a friend I see sitting across the gym, up in the bleachers, and tell her how very bored I am. The speeches drone on in the background, except they are no real speeches, they are just lists of kids being called to the front to receive some kind of recognition. And everybody and their brother deserves recognition. Especially for distinguishing themselves for never missing a day of school the entire year. Of course however many germs they might have spread around by dragging their bodies to school with green goo streaming out of their noses neither gets recorded nor recognized.

About that gym, here is what I wrote about it in an earlier blog post on the same subject:

What was very different this time lay in the amount of pomp and solemnity, or rather lack thereof. I suppose it’s hard to extract much pomp and solemnity from a vast gym where you’re sitting on hemorrhoid-breeding bleachers and surrounded by banners of athletic awards hung from the rafters, bright neon lights above and squeaky sounds of rubber sole on gym floor drifting up from below. It was much easier to achieve in a posh auditorium with cushy seats and stage lighting.

To be fair, this is a public school, versus a private one in South Africa. No school fees, just tax money. Which, judging by the size of the houses we are surrounded with, can’t be all that bad. Nevertheless, we are stuck with this gym, and each year I carefully read one sports championship banner after the other to pass the time, wondering why it is that our school hasn’t achieved any glory on the sports field since 2006, or whether perhaps it was just that the money for the banners ran out.

But even in this gym, you could shake up the party. What’s missing here is the spirit, the heart, the desire to teach not just ABCs and fractions but how to grow into the person you want to be. What’s missing here is that there is no singing of hymns; there is no Mrs van der Ploeg hammering on the keys of the piano and leading the charge with her soprano; there are no soaring speeches by the headmaster and captains of industry and sports; there are no frisbees flying into the audience to encourage participation; there are no robes with colors; and, most regrettably, there is no Mr Webb lighting a fire in a wheelbarrow on the stage, nor is there Mr West leading his entire staff dancing to Gangnam Style.

All we get here is the monotone ramblings of our ancient and wizened principal. You’ll thank me for not having captured her on video.

What we need here is a little South African spirit. The kind of spirit shown by the award-winning Team Vuvuzela during this year’s annual Cumberland River Dragonboat Race.

By the way, while we’re comparing things, do read up on South African toilets vs American toilets, to round out the picture.

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