Tuesday 24 January 2023

We Don't Need No Edukashun, by Saviour Pirotta

Sorry to dump this on you guys, but I'm hopping mad!

The last time I saw my father in a coherent state at his care home, he let on that there was a secret compartment under the bottom drawer in the tallboy. He and my mum used to keep their money in it before they had a bank account. What a thrill! All those years I'd been playing only inches away from hidden treasure.

I looked in the secret compartment and the only thing left there was a bulging envelope marked SALVINU (my Maltese name until I entered the education system where it was anglicized to Saviour. My parents called me Salvinu till the day they passed away.)

The only thing I found was a stash of school reports from my first years at St. Aloysius College. I didn't even know they existed. And I'm not surprised my dad hid them from mein the secret. He didn't want me to see them! Because the vast majority of the reports were damning. There wasn't a single subject I seemed to excel in. There was no hope for me. The teachers were all bitterly disappointed, especially as I was a SCHOLARSHIP boy.

This scholarship business kept rearing its fetid head at me the entire five years I was at that stupid college. My parents weren't paying for my education, so the Jesuits expected me to be grateful, to work harder than the sons of mp's, magistrates, and rich lawyers whose parents were forever sponsoring new school equipment and sports trophies. I only had to step out of line for a fraction of a second and I'd be reminded I was a scholarship student. 

The reports for the subjects I didn't do well had long notes that I'm sure would have made my dad's blood boil. Saviour doesn't pay attention in class. Saviour doesn't try hard enough with his homework. Saviour's test results weren't as good as expected.  The reports for the couple of subjects in which I did manage to get a score of fifty out of hundred, which meant I'd passed, had no hand written notes, just a blue tick. No words of encouragement to make up for my supposed failures, no 'well done'. Just a bloody blue tick.

And guess what my worst subjects were? English and history! I only went on to become an award winning author of historical fiction published in some thirty countries.

What really gets me is that these were meant to be religious people. Their duty was to guide and encourage, to nurture. As it was I came away from college with a lack of self worth so strong, it took years of therapy to overcome.  And I wonder how many other kids they managed to crush.

I wish I could say things have changed since my education in the late 1970s but I suspect they haven't changed that much, but more about that some other time. 

Meanwhile, I'm glad I do what I do for a living. It gives me the opportunity to to encourage kids to do the best they can. As is the duty of everyone involved in education in one way or another.

PS I wanted to upload a couple pics of my reports into the post but I'm writing this in a hotel room in France, where I'm doing research for my next book.

Saviour's latest book, The Crocodile Curse has just been published by Maverick. The Jackal's Graveyard, the next in the series of The Nile Adventures is out in October. 

Follow Saviour on twitter @spirotta

Website saviourpirotta.com


Anne Booth said...

I am really so sorry to read about how you were treated as a Scholarship boy and how your gifts were disregarded, Saviour, and as a fellow religious person, very sorry that it happened in a religious institution. How brilliant that after that, you have become a highly regarded writer for children, specialising in History! Did you ever see the school reports at the time, or did your parents hide them from you? I think it shows again how important it is for writers to go into schools and to connect with and give hope to the day-dreamers and those who are very creative but, for whatever reason, don't thrive in the educational system - children need to see that there is life after school and it is possible to really enjoy being creative long after the last school report has been handed out! Anyway, congratulations on proving those reports spectacularly wrong!

Mystica said...

What an interesting post.

Lynne Benton said...

Well done to your parents for hiding those reports away from you! Some teachers don't deserve to be anywhere near children...

Saviour Pirotta said...

Hi Anne, sorry I didn't reply to your comment earlier. I was in Rouen to do some research and I didn't have time to look on ABBA. I never knew that these awful reports existed. My father hid them to spare me the pain. I would have thought that he'd make a song and dance about them at the time but he must have been too shocked. I was always top of the class in primary school but St. Aloysius dented my confidence so much I actually left the education system soon after doing my GCEs. I stopped going to church for years because I could not reconcile this cruelty with the loved Jesus preached in the gospel. I hate to think how many other kids have suffered the same fate.

Steve Way said...

This is a very moving post Saviour, well done for reaching out for help and for proving your teachers so wrong!