Interview with a Teenager – Part IV

P, S, J & O. Their parents couldn't afford full names...

P, S, J & O. Their parents couldn’t afford full names…

What you’ve missed so far

It’s been a while since I last wrote on this series and it is time to get it finished off before Christmas kicks in and I become insanely busy.

I’m very aware that since part III there is has been quite a gap and several new readers have joined my blog in between. Can I recommend, then, that you read the introduction Part I (which explains why O, P, S and J are used) and then at least one of Part II or Part III to get a feel for what these four kids are like. You might also like to familiarise yourself with LAMB school (these kids are all ex-LAMB students) and perhaps even LAMB itself. There – that’s plenty of homework for you, isn’t it? If you click on the links they will open to a different tab so you can come back to this one when you’re ready (and you did read my About me section, didn’t you..?).

Mr O

Back? Good.

Mr O - the handsome dude!

Mr O – the handsome dude!

So, today, we talk about Mr O. This post won’t feature as many quotes for O as for the others for two simple reasons:

  • O came to the interview late (which is not unlike him) and;
  • O didn’t say much (which is not unlike him)

So you’ll actually get more of my own recollections of him than his own words here but that’s okay because my recollections of him are quite vivid.

O is different to both P and S, who are doing A levels in a school in India, in that he remained in Bangladesh and went down to the capital, Dhaka, to do his A levels. Whereas P and S are in a walled-in compound similar to LAMB and basically are in a school which is a bigger and better resourced version of it, O is in the big city which just could not be more different to little village LAMB if it tried.

I taught O both of the times I visited LAMB before living here and he was one of only two students in the O level class when I joined in 2008. This was the ‘test run’ class to see if LAMB school could cope with the demands of teaching at a level they had never attempted before and I taught O for nearly two years to prepare him for his exams. He and his other classmate passed their subjects with flying colours and set the standard for future, larger classes.

That was not to say that we spent all our time with noses buried in Chemistry, Physics and Maths A books (though we did for some of the time); we spent much more time laughing our heads off! I really could not tell you why or how. I can’t remember telling any jokes (they tend to fall flat anyway – I’m not very good at joke-telling) and I can’t remember dressing up like a clown or anything. Yet, we laughed so loud that we disturbed other classes and often there was a real danger of one of us never breathing again. We laughed ‘til it hurt.

O has a great sense of humour and is completely unassuming and without pretensions. We often used to play the guitar together, leading others in songs as we often did. The number of times O broke a string were legendary. Ping would go a string during a song and there would be a good chance that before that same song had finished there would be another ping from his guitar. I swear he once finished a session playing a one-string guitar. I may be exaggerating.

Some would be embarrassed by this but O just enjoys the humour and the jokes at his expense – largely from myself guffawing in his face. Such a gentle spirit he has that he would laugh along with me without a hint of hurt pride.

A handsome devil

Yet, O had a lot, while at LAMB, to be proud of. The young man is very sporty – not something, alas, I share with him. He was the school sports champion in just about everything and he looked it. You could tell, from looking at him, that he was a fit guy. I just can’t imagine that girls wouldn’t swoon over him with his good looks, healthy figure and a personality that could not be nicer.

His only/biggest problem with the ‘girl’ side of things, I think, is that when it comes to talking to the opposite sex, O is painfully shy! This, in itself, is very endearing in a country when the men rule and women tend to be bonded in submission to some degree of other. O has every reason to be over-confident and cocky with women – he’s a real catch; but he isn’t like this and, despite the restriction to potential relationships his shyness could create, it is a characteristic I hope he never loses.

Life after LAMB

I asked him how he felt about LAMB after a couple of years away from it in busy Dhaka.

“Everyone knew me at LAMB,” he reflects, “but not at the school in Dhaka. Up at LAMB the whole school was your friend but the other school had 1000 students.”

Friendship, I knew, meant a lot to O.

“No one knew me there. There were often 60 students in a class.” A far cry from 2-8 in a class in those early days at LAMB.

Did the teachers help him?

“No, at LAMB the teachers would communicate with you, but down in Dhaka the teachers just didn’t care about the students.”

To be honest, from a teacher’s point of view, I don’t blame them. 60 in a class must be so demoralising. Every now and then I read in the British press that the Government is threatening to increase class sizes to that kind of figure. I’m sure they do it just to keep teachers on their toes and be satisfied with whatever insane new idea the Government has dreamed up now instead. You accept the beating with a stick if someone holds a gun to your head.

O continued: “And the students themselves were all rich. They acted different to how LAMB kids do. They didn’t care about education.”

LAMB students, generally speaking, do not come from rich families. Some are incredible poor, living in (admittedly beautiful and clean) mud huts and working by candle-light to do homework because the village has no electricity.

“I slowly fitted in,” says O, “but in the end it just wasn’t working and I left.”

When I interviewed him, O was finishing his A levels by himself with some private tuition to help. At one point, I was giving him quick sessions myself to help him with his Maths. One of the reasons LAMB began doing O levels was because good staff were leaving when their kids got too old and had to move to another school. This is still happening but just two years later. Sure enough, O’s mother – a most wonderful woman and highly valued member of staff – had to leave in order to support him down in Dhaka.

Why did he leave the Dhaka school? Various reasons but, just like P and S before, O was blunt:

“It was boring,” he admits. “At LAMB we could play around and things were more lively, but not there.”

This sounded promisingly positive about LAMB to me but then P butted in with:

“He thinks LAMB is more lively than his school but we (P & S) think it is more boring!”

O turns to them and dashes my hopes:

“Oh LAMB is more boring now but it wasn’t back when we were at LAMB!”

He offers some hope that LAMB has something to offer these old and wisened teenage heads before me:

“I prefer living in Dhaka now and wouldn’t want to live at LAMB again, but I enjoy visiting and if I got married and had kids I would want them to grow up here.”

LAMB, clearly, has everything to offer children but not enough to keep the teenagers entertained. I don’t blame them really – it’s the same the world over I guess. For a (rapidly becoming) old man like me, the peace, tranquillity and nothingness that LAMB offers is a haven away from the world. For kids like O, it doesn’t have that appeal. Not when Dhaka offers lights, action and excitement! It is nice to see, though, that O, P and S all feel this is a wonderful place to let your children grow up. I couldn’t agree more.

Robbers with a heart

That’s it from O but I’ll just offer up one more anecdote about him.

O was well known for his old and decrepit mobile phone. We used to mock him about it in class (playfully, of course). Whilst on holiday, he and his father got mugged. The thieves took money and phones from them but, on examining O’s phone handed it back with a sheepish grin. They clearly felt that with a phone that old, he must be down on his luck! Poor lad!

Mr O back when life was FUUUNNNN!!!!!

Mr O back when life was FUUUNNNN!!!!!

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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5 Responses to Interview with a Teenager – Part IV

  1. Pingback: Interview with a Teenager – part V | kenthinksaloud

  2. Rinth says:

    Another interesting personality!

    I feel kinda stupid… thing is I’ve always heard these O level A level thingies when I’ve been in Bangladesh but never managed to understand it. Our educational system is different… probably more like the American than the British one. Could you explain briefly? Like how old are these kids? Are they in high school now or in college?

    Like

    • No it’s a good question actually Rinth! Thanks for asking it. 🙂
      The O levels are the exams students take in the year when they turn 16. They study for two years prior to that to prepare. The A levels take another two years so they take their final exams when they are 18. From A levels they go straight on to University unless they take a gap year or anything like that. Only the O levels are required by law (in the UK where they are actually called GCSEs). A levels, like university, are optional.
      Hope that helps!

      Like

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