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School is back in Session!

The weather is turning, the days are getting shorter… and for some of us, the summer holidays are almost all gone.

You never really lose the taste of a new school year starting, do you? No matter how long since you actually had to swap the long, carefree days of summer for uniform, new pens and the embrace of the classroom, that first sense of the leaves turning, triggers the memories of the beginning of the school year. For some of us, the memories are warm; others went to school unwillingly.

Recently, during one of our unbearably hot days, my little siblings and I watched movies all afternoon while eating cookies. We may have set a new record of sitting in the couch for long, but we didn’t feel guilty. We had nothing important to do and nowhere that we had to be. It was the quintessential lazy summer day, and we had a blast.

After a summer of sleeping in or doing things on your own time, the ringing of the alarm bell announcing that first day of school can be a rude wake-up call whether you’re an anxious first grader or a confident high school student.

Dread it or love it, you got to go to school. This week Eritrean students have been getting ready for the upcoming school year, and so too have my four lazy siblings. After the summer holiday they have had, with no set of rules about when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to study, when to do homework, you can now see the gloomy looks on their faces when you tell them the start of the new school year, next Monday, is right around the corner.

“Michael……where are you, you little devil?” screams the worried mother.

“He is still out playing with his friends,” says the older brother.

“It’s 7 in the evening and he is still outside; thank God I only have to put up with this for two more days, then he is back to school,” says the agitated mother trying to console herself.

The idea of going back to school is often met with a combination of excitement and dread. On the one hand, you get to see all your friends again, catch up on all the latest gossip and share your holiday stories. On the other hand, though, it means getting back to studying, doing homework and getting out of bed early. For mothers it is a joy. The new school year couldn’t come any sooner. The idea of not having to run after kids in the house or outside is a thrill.

The months of July and August are summer holidays in Eritrea as is in many parts of the world. By early September, as the rainy season approaches the end, Eritrean students are getting ready to start school. That old uniform, which was thrown at the other end of the closet when school was closed, is now being fetched out and ironed, and those who have outgrown their uniform over the summer are taken to the family tailor and fitted for a new uniform before the new school year starts.

During the two solid months of the summer break, Eritrean students are engaged in different activities. The young ones are out and about playing soccer, hide and seek and eating beles, prickly pears, while those above 17 years of age are dispatched in their respective localities for the annual national summer greening campaign held each year at the beginning of summer. All grade 10 and 11 students all over the country take part in the campaign that lasts for a month by planting trees and giving social services. Students try to enjoy every bit of the last two or three days of the last week of summer.

As the first day of the new school year approaches, registration fees are paid in the first week, followed by the purchase of new books and stationery. Going back to school can seem less than appealing for many kids after the long summer break. Let’s face it, going back to the monotonous daily routine, and marching to the beat of a strict weekly timetable can be quite disheartening. With the beginning of the new school year, the excitement from summer and the freedom of the break slowly begin to fade into the distance. As the time to go to bed and the time to get up are reset, the luxury of the summer leisure time begins to be filled with homework and the thought of a whole new set of teachers, new classes, new faces and, sometimes, even new schools – which can all be quite overwhelming!

Nonetheless the start of the new school year means the start of yet another chapter in your life. A chance to make more friends, catch up with the old and most important progress as a human being, a human being who thrives on knowledge. Starting the new school year motivated is the first step towards spending the next ten months productively. I say to you all my dear readers-students- may the new school year be a fresh start, a year filled with new discoveries, a year of making happy memories, and a year when you make efforts to surpass your previous school year’s achievements.

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