Thursday, February 11, 2010
The BBC did well with this programme
The Beeb, Auntie, British Broadcasting Corporation is known all over the world.It's come in for a lot of criticism of late, mainly for the vastly inflated salaries paid to some of its stars (although I am a Wossy fan and think it is a shame he has decided to leave; I don't have Russell Brand love though). Lately I have been watching quite a lot of programmes on its UK minor channel BBC4 and last night I saw a great one.
Called Syrian Schools it was the first of five episodes following life in a few different schools in - well- Syria. For someone like me who is very ignorant about the differences in the Arab world re secular and religious life, it was very illuminating.I can't do better than quote the Guardian's review - they put it so well
The star of the first episode of Syrian School (BBC4), a five-part documentary about young people's lives in Damascus, was undoubtedly Amal Hassan, the utterly wonderful headmistress of the Zaki Al-Arsuzi Girls' secondary school in the city centre. She looks out over her excitably shrieking charges as they read the new class lists, bewail the loss of partners in crime ("I'm not with my friends!") and test the limits of the new uniform rules. Under her basilisk stare, order is gradually brought out of chaos. "I want them to see how strong I am, and how proud I am of myself," she says, her face as immobile as her fabulous helmet of jet-black hair. If I were a pupil of hers, I would be daily prostrate with terror, but they evidently breed them tougher in Syria, and the girls under her care not only survive but thrive.
The teachers at the boys' school on the outskirts of Damascus face the even more formidable task of diffusing the physical and emotional tensions caused by the influx into a predominantly Muslim area of Christian refugee students from Baghdad. One of these is Yusif, who plays war games on his computer without a qualm but shrinks from sudden noises, which take him back to the bombings of his childhood. At his school, 500 boys are crammed into a building built for 300, and are almost literally bouncing off the walls. When Yusif, an avid football fan, realises that the PE lesson on his first day is going to be devoted to the rules of basketball*, he lays his head on his desk in theatrical despair; the other boys look similarly appalled. Some things transcend all differences.
*this was a bit that upset me actually. The (female) sports teacher was trying to encourage the class to vote for basketball over other sports. She said 'I'll favour any of you who pick basketball' - surely this goes against teacher rules the world over - to actually admit to favouritism?