Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hot off the press! Riots at Kyenjojo, S.S.

Gun shots ring out as I write this.

It appears that a student was expelled, and he did not take it well. He began fighting the teacher, other students joined in and within a few minutes police were called.

A riot ensued.

While things escalated, I tried to keep my students focused. Often, you can hear cheers and laughter from various classrooms around school. This was the first time I witnessed violence.

I am in class with the kids with the door locked. The rocks that begin raining down on the sheet-metal roofs mimic the AK-47 reports that have only just subsided. The sound of glass shattering fills the campus.

My students are livid.

"Why were the police called?!"

"Guns cannot solve these problems!"

I try to explain the situation... how the police felt they needed to exert their power by pulling the trigger; that in their mind, the fear caused by the discharge of the gun equated to control. After just a taste, they were hungry for more… RAT!...RATA-TAT!...RATA-TATA-TAT!!

"Did you see?!" one exclaims, "At first, they were shooting high into the air, but later they were aiming closer to the ground! They could have hit a student!"

Ironic that I have been teaching my students about projectiles. Rocks and bullets, baby! I take the opportunity to discuss the real world example we were witnessing. We briefly cover what a bullet fired into the sky does to the unlucky person it hits while descending. What goes up must come down… in this case deadly fast.

I decide to make a dash between buildings to be closer to the teachers. I would be lying if the image of me being torn apart by an angry throng of students didn't cross my mind.

I'm sitting in the teachers’ lounge. My ears are ringing; more rocks on the roof. I had alerted Mary, my boss, about the riot, and she made contact with the Peace Corps Security Director. She calls me back to say that he has contacted the police... the same individuals that blew things out of proportion to begin with.

Shots ring out again; this time in the distance but still not far enough for comfort. For the teachers, this is the juiciest event to hit Kyenjojo, possibly ever. Exasperated, they keep telling the story.

"There was a boy, and the teacher said, 'YOU GET OUT!', but the boy refused! He said to the teacher, 'I won't leave until you give me my money!' "

“These students! They come from families where no morals are taught!”

No. I think. These students are pissed off! They are sick of the beatings, the horrendous food and shitty teachers and administrators. Prison riots start for the same reason.

An hour has now passed since everything began. Crowds, gathered outside the school’s gates, can be heard. My security director calls to let me know that things have calmed down. Thank you Fred, I think, standing at ground zero. He assures me that there are plain clothes police officers being deployed in the town, and they will arrest anyone who harasses me. Plain clothes, eh? What about the huge guns they are toting?

And school for the remainder of the week? “CANCELED until further notice.”

I’m just fine. I'm headed home. I've felt surprisingly calm through the event; just mildly sick. Hunger mixed with the beginnings of PTSD, I'm guessing.

I kid, I kid!

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