Today the school is overrun by Grade 6 kids come to view their place of learning for the next half dozen years.

The wonder of it is that the newbies are either unbelievably diminutive or, equally incredibly, monstrous. Since the Lowbottom feeder schools straddle the disadvantaged divide, you guess it is a dietary thing.

The munchkins are (mal)nourished on junk; just what the titans of the new intake eat is a mystery. Steroids, probably.

On this orientation day, the current lot of Year 7s are absent. This is necessary since their presence would only serve to remind the incumbents that they once presented as enthusiastic and cute and not a little intimidated by the giants among whom they flitted nervously like mammals waiting for the demise of the dinosaurs.

Such memories for the Year 7s, of course, would be anathema and lead to blood in the quadrangle. For without the seniors on campus, and fuelled by hormones which are to the human body what rocket propellant is to a dragster, the Year 7s have begun to assert their presence.

Like cockroaches invading a kitchen, they enter previously forbidden zones. The handball court, a vital place for seniors to practise foul language and gratuitous hawking, for instance, and those secluded spots where the advanced student may produce for the admiration of his peers cigarettes and the condom he carries around in his wallet. (The same condom, let it be said, acquired some time back.)

The Year 7s, not to put too fine a fine on it, have decided that they are Year 8s and well within their rights to exploit and torment those on the next rung down. Since it never redounds well on a school to have kids running screaming from the campus calling plaintively for their Mummies, the Year 7s are made to stay at home to practise their Chinese arm burns and the wearing of their shirts outside their trousers.

The view of the school received by the class of 2009, then, is a distorted one. Deserted like Piero della Francesca’s Ideal City, it represents for the teacher a kind of utopia. Very few classes and a silence which seems to reference an Edenic past. As for the Grade 6s, they will next materialise as Year 7s and present on the first day back as so many eggs in a carton.

All neat and ordered and VEB approved. Eggs, though, hatch…

Peter Fray

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