I would probably have returned to this theme sooner, but a lot has happened and there has been a lot to reflect on in the last couple of months. February has brought with it a return to something vaguely approaching routine, and so, with the celebrations out of the way for a time, it seems appropriate to reflect further on the main part of our life here, our work with the vocational students.
Working with the students at TVED continues to open my eyes to the many things we take for granted, the many privileges we have come to see as rights, rarely pausing to consider that many are luxuries a large part of the world's population can only dream of.
There are plenty of signs of poverty among the students of TVED, but there are certain things in life which are so much part of meeting our basic needs that not only do we think of them as rights, but so should we, and so should everyone: surely something as fundamental as sleep shouldn't be considered a privilege? Probably not, but some of the students here certainly don't get as much as they need.
The TVED programme is all encompassing - the students are expected to dedicate themselves to the course and give 100% - not only to learning their practical skills, but to the social and religious elements of life too: TVED is forming characters as well as employees. It means an 11 hour day, six days a week, which alone is a pretty intensive programme. There are no optional extras here, it is all or nothing, and lateness and absence are not tolerated.
For most of us, a sixty-six hour week probably already sounds like more than enough, but for some of the students, that is not all they do. Although the fees at TVED are low, and not all of the students even pay those, they still have to live. I don't want to exaggerate, many of the students are supported to study here by their families, but there are a fair number who, either before school or after, or in some cases both, have to work. Considering they have to be on site for 6.30am, that is no small thing. Some students earn money by driving the bicycle taxis in the early morning and evening, at least one we know does odd jobs at the home of a wealthy Filipino to support himself.
As a teacher, I find it very irritating when students doze off in my classes, but although I wake them up and ask them to concentrate, part of me can't help feeling that anyone who is tired enough to sleep on a hard wooden chair with their head on a desk, possibly needs the sleep more even than they need the English lesson!
So when you go to bed tonight, sleep well!