Schooldays ...

My school days are long since gone -- sadly ...

I went to school in the mid-40's to mid-50's Kaikohe, Northland. I was one who enjoyed school - especially Primary Level.

Memories of luke-warm milk and an apple a day - plus hot cocoa in tin mugs, at lunchtimes during winter ... The 'respect' we held for our teachers; the solid grounding of the three "R's" ... the Pot Belly stoves that kept us warm ...'softball' games during lunchtime; or 'basketball' in the winter... Nothing dramatic for me - just happy memories of no worries - no cares ... Those were the days ... hmmm mmm mm

- Carol Davey, October, 1997 Kaikohe

Rugby at Morning Break

Rugby is clearly New Zealand's preeminent sport. The national team, the All Blacks, has made a name for themselves in international competition. For many Kiwis the All Blacks are a symbol of their nation not even eclipsed by a victorious America's Cup crew. We have seen rugby being played at virtually every school we visited. At coed and boys' schools, there is nothing more prestigious than making the first XV and earning your colors. It is rather akin to the intensity of American high school football in Texas. Even New Zealand girls are beginning to play rugby--although mostly at intra-school touch competitions. At morning break or after lunch, rugby games are a ubiquitous part of New Zealand school life.

Of all the rugby matches we have viewed, however, nothing matches the game pursued by a class of energetic 7-year-olds at a charming little Christchurch prep school. The highlight of their day is morning break where after a snack they have at rugby. Of course the little chaps involved, 25 kg or so, are nothing like the awe-inspiring, poweful 100 kg athletes who play for the All Blacks, but in terms of raw competitive spirit we have never seen anything remotely like this lot. The boys begin anticipating their upcoming match in the middle of a math lesson and have a little trouble concentrating. The teacher gently scolds them for watching the clock.

Finally the break arrives with the morning bell. One of the little chaps retrieves their rugby ball which is a bit of a challenge for a 7-year-olds to handle. Now the way these guy s play is that one side lines up with the ball and the other side lines up opposite them in the confines of the small play area behind their classroom. At last the action begins. There is fire in their eyes. Then they just flat out run full speed right at each other. They do not try by any stretch of the mind to run by or elude each other mind you, just flat out run AT each other, aiming vaguely for the ball. No preliminaries, no elusive moves for this lot, they just simply collide at full speed. Unlike real rugby, the safest boy is the one with the ball because he at least has something between him and the oncoming mass of 7-year-olds to provide a bit of a cushion. The boys dismiss the possibility of sissy touch rules.

Invariably someone is knocked down and begins crying. (They have not yet developed the stoic endurance of their 8-year-old seniors.) As their teacher has done a marvelous job of creating a very close-knit class, the boys are immediately concerned with their wounded compatriot. They gather around him, ask where it hurts, help him to his feet, encourage him, and finally help him up after he has his wind back. (This is a critical part of the whole process because it reduces the number of plays [i.e., collisions]-- otherwise there might be a minimal number of survivors after 15 minutes.)

You might think that all of this would discourage them. But these boys are not deterred one wit. They immediately line up again and run full speed at each other again. A different boy is knocked down this time in a jumble of diminuative thrashing arms and legs. The boys slowly disengage and again begin consoling two of their classmates. One is quickly on his feet, the other is a little slower to get up and has tears streaming down his freckled face. Another line up. Another collision. More tears.

This goes on unabated until the teacher calls them in when the bell sounds. A few scraped knees and noses, one boy with a slight limp, another with a bump on his head, but in no time they seem hard at work on a science experiment. My guess is, however, that they are already thinking about tomorrow's rugby at morning break.

The authors, 1994