by Rayan Harake

When the new school year started, I was placed in fifth grade. The school that I would be attending is extremely different from the one back in Brazil. I go in there for the first time with my mother to enroll; we pass through the gate and enter into an open space with concrete walls, and a small building – the school – in the middle. I wonder where the playground is, and realize later I was standing in it.

It is a very small, undeveloped school (chosen by my mother mostly because we can’t afford a better one) – however still representative of the Lebanese schooling system. There are only three other children enrolled with me in fifth grade. I speak Arabic, and I have learned the letters, but I can’t read very well. My Arabic teacher gets frustrated in our first class because I, a fifth grader, can’t read a sentence properly. The school tells my mother that if I start falling behind other students, I would need to be placed in a lower grade. In less than a month I am reading fluently, and for the rest of the year I would come out on top of the (4-student) class every month.

School in Lebanon is different in many ways. First, there is the whole ‘periods’ system. Back in Brazil, we never got a definitive title for what we were currently learning. We used to change classes for English and Spanish, but other than that, we spent the rest of the time in our class with our teacher, who taught us everything from language to math, without making an announcement whenever we were moving from one subject to another. We had one copybook that we used for almost everything, and I don’t remember having to study much beyond doing daily homework.

In my current school, however, we have a timetable. The bell will ring at the end of each period signaling the end of a class and the start of a new one – and teachers will switch between classes because each subject has its own teacher. No matter how much material we need to cover, each subject is given the same allotted time, and we have to be careful to bring along the correct book and copybook for it. What happens if we forget one? It is the job of the principal to come to class and scold the student that didn’t bring the proper book/copybook for the subject – a very common occurrence.

A normal discussion topic on the school grounds is heavy bags: The set of books and copybooks required by the daily timetable would result in bags too heavy for children to carry. Another would be the time spent studying. I – someone who loved memorizing and was bright in mathematics and sciences – would spend no less than three hours a day studying. I was a perfectionist, I made sure I memorized everything word for word to recite it back as though I was reading it – endless repetition would get me there. We were given a lot of things to memorize: Arabic poems, English auto-dictations (memorizing a paragraph in English, and spilling it out word for word onto paper, which was supposed to improve our English skills), passages from history, geography, and civil education.

I became the exemplary student who could recite everything by heart, who would come with completely solved math and science homework. The school system seemed to be built only for children who have the utmost perfectionist drive – which ironically, in my case, came from an unhealthy place; I grew up with a father who would only praise us if we were the best of the best.

Comparing my current school system with my older one would become a frequent mental exercise. Back in Brazil, I never had to prepare a bag full of content for the next school day. We only had one copybook that would come and leave with us. Any homework we needed to do was copied and glued to that one copybook. Books weren’t used that much – but when they were, they were fetched from a closet in the classroom. No one ever wasted time on scolding a child for a missing copybook; no parent worried that their children would have back problems.

A student never came out on ‘top of the class’. We were evaluated qualitatively with letters for performance. Here, they were obsessed with marking down the students sequentially from the 1st to 12th or 15th.

Back in my old school, no one spent an hour trying to memorize a paragraph word for word. I still remember facts from history classes I took in fourth grade in Brazil, but nothing from the endless passages about Babylonians and Egyptians and Greeks that I could recite by heart when I first studied them.

Like many other aspects of Lebanese governance, whoever is in charge of the education system in Lebanon doesn’t believe in the need to come up with a system that is more progressive, efficient, and less bureaucratic for everyone involved.

2021: Conceived – Volume 2 of a Contemporary Transadaptation

January: The Pack – Alejandra Baccino (Uruguay)

February: The Pink Shirt – Talia Stotts (America)

March: Dragging the Past out into the Light – Kate Korneeva (Russia)

April: Looking Forward to Spring – Marilin Guerrero Casas (Cuba)

May: Every Little Thing – Gennady Bondarenko (Ukraine)

June: The Girl Who Chased the Rainbow – Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) (South Africa)

July: Another World – Jonay Quintero Hernandez (Spain)

August: Life after Nare – Nane Sevunts (Armine Asryan) (Armenia)

September: Meeting My Homeland – Rayan Harake (Lebanon)

October: Catching Water (Part Two) – Javier Gomez (Argentina)

November: Remember – Seyit Ali Dastan (Turkey)

December: Los Caminantes – Veronica Cordido (Venezuela)

Background – Context

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world


Photo: Beirut, Lebanon – Backery – Irtiza Hashmi (Shutterstock)
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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