Franz Kröger (ed.)
Going to a Bulsa School
Enrolment, motivation and resistance
The methods of enrolling young boys and girls to fill classes and also the willingness/ resistance of the pupils themselves and their parents has apparently changed during the last decades. While enrolment in the early times (we publish examples from the time after the early fifties of the 20th century) was to a great extent executed by teachers, policemen, chiefs and subchiefs who went to the compounds and collected the names of young boys and girls, in recent times the decision has been more or less imposed on parents.
In the analysis of the sources available it would seem that the conflicts regarding school attendance have diminished. In former times school attendance was often enforced by teachers and officers against the wishes of the parents, by parents against the wishes of their children, and by pupils-to be against the wishes of their parents. In modern times, especially since the start of the new millennium, a father will send his son or preferably daughter to school without being forced to do so by anyone. The new pupils sometimes show a certain reserve or fear regarding being transferred to a completely different sphere of life, but I do not know of any severe resistance or intergenerational conflict. If there is a strong dislike of the boy or girl to go to school or if after a brief attempt the pupil refuses to go to school any longer, the father often complies with his child’s wishes.
Some parents even find it quite reasonable that some of their children will become educated adults while others dedicate their lives to farmwork.
The following extracts were taken from pupils’ compositions, interviews and above all from 40 life-stories of people of different age.
Though the authors gave me their stories for free application, I thought it appropriate to leave out their names and references that might too clearly reveal their identities.
Mistakes in spelling have been corrected in the extracts, obvious mistakes of grammar and style only if they might have led to misunderstandings.
A. *ca. 1946/47 Sandema (male)
In 1950 December, when they were looking for children to fill up the new class at the beginning of the new form in 1951, I was seen in the market by some of the teachers and they put my hand on my head and tried to see, if my palm could touch my opposite ear. My palm could not touch it but they wrote my name down and the section I come from. And they took it to the chief.
When I came home and told what had happened to me at the market, my mother did not allow me to go to the market anymore for fear that I would be taken to school and I being her last son, she would be left alone. The chief sent my name to the headman of my section and the headman also informed my father about what the chief had said and my father took me to the chief to see, if I was up to the age of going to school. When my father was taking me to the chief, my mother wept bitterly and she did not eat that day. She felt, I would no more come to the house that day, because the school children in those days were kept in the school for six months without coming home and were not properly treated...
When the news reached my mother that I was chosen, she was restless and that night she tried to escape with me to an unknown place, so that I might not be able to go to the school, but my father knew it and was all the time sleeping in my mother's room, to prevent her from escaping with me, for if my mother had succeeded in escaping with me, my father would have been detained by the chief until I was brought. When my mother saw that she couldn't escape with me and time was drawing near for me to part [with] her and go to the school, she started using robing [rubbing a substance on] the whole of my body as a sign that I am not well.
When the day came for me to leave for school, my father told my mother to get food for me to eat before he could send me to the school in the evening, but my mother told him that I was not well and that she did not think I could go to the school that day. My father was very angry when she said this and said, even if I were dying, he would send me to the school. So my mother was forced to cook the food for me. I could not eat the food when it was ready for it was my first time... to go and stay somewhere without my parents. When it was about 4 o'clock in the evening, my father put me on his horse and took me to the school and handed me to one of the teachers he knew.
B. *1944, Sandema (male)
1949 there was a force [decree?] by the Sandemnab that every child,
about five years old or over, should go to school... My parents got
to hear of this news and asked me to go to my uncle's house. By then
I was five years old. So I went to my uncle's house. I stayed there
for three years. The police came there to look for other children in
the house. They did not see me, because my father told my uncle not
to let me go to school. And so, when the police were coming to the
house, my uncle asked me to go to the bush so that the police could
not see me around the house. So I went to the bush in the morning
and came back in the evening. By then the police had gone away with
some children from that area.
C. *1953 Sandema (male)
I was fit and well built, strong in health and physically correct in
all parts of my body, my father took me to attend school for my
first time. My father thought that if his son went to school he
might one day become an important person abroad or achieve some
good conduct scholarship as a secondary school student or go to a
technical school to learn carpentry, masonry and general fitting in
order to gain one day after my suffering at the school... People
said I could even get employment in the Government department as a
soldier or policeman.
D. *1947, Wiaga (male)
I had been a shepherd for three years with my yellow mates. One day we were having a bow and arrow shooting competition when we saw three well dressed young gentlemen coming towards us. People who dress like that we call them noble men (Karicha, teachers). They came and greeted us and asked to know the best bow and arrow shooter, we pointed at one boy and they asked his name. One of them pulled out 10 Pesewas, gave him and threw an object some distance away and asked him to shoot at it. He aimed at it exactly and we followed one after the other. We were about sixteen boys in number.
After that they asked of all our names and the houses we came from. Some of the big boys gave wrong names when they asked them, they wrote [down] all our names and said that they wanted us to dress like them when we became men in future so they would take all of us to school.
Some of us were happy but some were weeping. They tried to stop those weeping saying that we would all have plenty of milk powder, cheese and many other kinds of sweets every day that we went to school. We told our parents when we went home, most of our parents were not happy about the news. About two weeks later they called our fathers to bring us to the school for registration.
E. *1941 or 1942, Sandema (male)
I had been a shepherd boy for many years. It came a time that I became very annoyed with my parents because at our area some people sent their children to school while they [my parents] didn't make any attempt to send me. Some boys who were even younger than I were sent to school. Whenever these boys came home on holidays they used to speak English and I wished I were one [of them]. So one time I decided to go to school with them when their holidays were over.
F. * ca. 1957 (female)
In 1964 my father's mother told me that she had [sent] my name to school, so I should get prepared to go to school in one month’s time, as then they open school. I was happy to hear that I would be going to school.
G. *1949 Wiaga (male)
[Like D. also G. was recruited by some well-dressed karichi (teachers)].
The day I was to be taken to school, the sub-chief of our section came to tell me to dress up for school. He left for the other houses and in some hours’ time, he came back to my house with two of my playmates following him. I too, immediately joined the group and we were led to the head of our locality to undergo some sacrifices before we could be taken to Baankpalek Mission. The head of the Gods stood up from his clubs (?) in the kusung, came out and assembled all of us before the "bogluta" (gods) and asked for help from them for us to prosper. Immediately we were put into his "Feleka-Tuini" book.
H. *1958/59 Sandema (male)
Just after three days when I stopped being a shepherd, I was taken to school by my father. That impressed me much. At first my father didn't want me to go to school, for my sister was already at school. After his plans to take me to school, he released my sister and took me there.
Extracts from compositions in class 6, Azenab Girls’ Primary School, Wiaga (2003)
(a) It was on the 15th of May 1990 that my father asked me in the night whether I liked to go to school. So I said “yes”. The following morning I took my bath and dressed with my new uniform and he sent me to school.
(b) I am happy to write about my first day in school. When I was in P1 I was happy with my friends... that I learned how to spell my name. I learned how to greet people. I learned how to pray in the morning...
(c) My first day at school was in September 1997, and my father took me there. We got there at exactly 7:30 a.m., even before the headmistress arrived... When I was leaving school that day I was very happy.
From an interview of a primary school pupil’s father (Sandema Yongsa, 1974)
(free translation): I was forced to send my daughter to school. At Sandema market it was announced that all children had to attend school. The older school children of our compound told the teachers, which young children of our house did not yet go to school. Then teachers visited our house. If it was up to me, all schools would be closed. At first schools were quite useful, but today the school-leavers do not find a job. They become thieves and are too lazy for farmwork..