Adonis Diaries

Consolidation of the kingdom: Rainbow over the Levant novel

Posted on: October 8, 2008

Chapter 7:  Consolidation of the kingdom; (continue 11)

Antoun had a few rudimentary ideas concerning the organization of the social fabric but he lacked reprieves for consolidating his hold on power. Fortunately, the new leader had good qualities of listening carefully to suggestions and delegating authorities to matters considered not to affect directly his grip on power.

Mariam Najjar was an excellent counselor and was motivated to enlarge her knowledge and participate in the decision units.  She suggested that one priority was to establishing elementary schools in every town and argued that without a learned youth the future of the regime would be totally dependent on foreign experts who would deplete the treasury.  She advanced the concept that relying on the know-how of other nations was the main reason why so many dynasties had died out or been replaced by dynasties elevated from mercenaries who did not care for the well-being and stability of the societies they governed.  

However, there was the realization, experienced by most families living in high altitude of over 1000 meters above sea level, of the high mortality rate in extended families during the winter season that lasted five months. Many died from suffocation, pulmonary diseases, and contagious illnesses.  Psychological disorders lead to brutal physical behaviors from close contact in unfit environmental conditions. At the time, and for long time afterwards, homes were simply of  one room;  the door was the only opening to fresh air.  Around ten people on average crowded that cloistered unique room for the duration of winter.  

As was the custom, large families usually dedicated their second or third sons to the clergy’s institutions to become priests and a few daughters to turning nuns; thus, avoiding feeding extra mouths and making more space for the other members of the family; many kids were lent to work for free in return for shelter and food and some education during the harsh season.

To return the favor for the outlawed citizens, it was decided that intern or boarding schools be erected for girls and boys separately where children of ages ranging from nine to thirteen would dwell in for 5 months from mid November to mid April.

 

Boarding schools

The first intern or boarding school was established in Baskinta and demonstrated in its first year that mortality was drastically reduced in winter when the number of family members was cut in half within their reduced dwellings.  Consequently, this facility provided during the winter season education and healthier quarters for children and lent longevity to the extended family members. Nuns and monks would run these schools in the beginning until a new generation of trained and learned lay administrators and educators took over gradually. 

The teaching was traditional the first two years until tighter administration and teaching procedures were enacted; a single instructor perched on a cushioned flat stone faced half circles of students sitting on the ground and was responsible for all the beginners in the reading class ,regardless of the students’ age and gender.  The master’s long reaching stick would not discriminate inattentive heads; heavy physical punishments were the lot of free spirits who dared stand for their rights or argued boldly. A few families would even worry if their kids were not physically disciplined as signs of careless and apathetic behavior on the instructor’s part in guiding their kids’ progress in learning.   

Families would rather go and visit their children at school on Christmas vacation and stay with them for a couple of days benefiting from warmer lodging in barns and healthier food varieties.  Christmas was a happy period for everyone in the school where children would get busy building mock-up houses, trees, animals and figurines for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi kings and presenting homemade gifts to their parents in return for assorted delicacies.

A typical day at intern schools started at 6 a.m. followed by house cleaning, chicken feeding, cow milking, kitchen food preparation, and carrying necessary supplies for the day; then, at 7:30 mass and breakfast.  Classes for reading and writing in both Arabic an Aramaic languages and basic arithmetic would begin at 8:30 and end at 12:30 for lunch.  A short recess ,then off to working in the artisanal shops of carpentry, pottery, glass painting, iron forging, cloth making, glass blowing and farm tending until 4 p.m.  The children would then head to the supervised study lounge until dusk, followed by diner and Vesper prayer.  

By seven everybody was already in bed in order to save on candles and oil consumption.  Children less than eleven years of age would sleep ten in a room on hay stacks with spreads of goat skin; the older ones would sleep seven in a room.  It was not the sleeping quarters that mattered for the kids but a larger freedom to move around and be outside during the day with three fulfilling meals.

Meat was scarce but the kids were frequently fed “kebbe nayyeh” for Sunday’s lunch and eggs with “kaorma” for Saturday’ breakfast and tabbouli or mjadara on Fridays.  The usual staples were cereals, beans, crushed wheat, lentils, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, soup and plenty of breads. Fruits were a delicacy, especially apples which could be stored; sometimes, apricot and blueberry jams; and more often molasses and “rahat el halkoum”.

Most of the toys and game equipments were homemade.  They used to fabricate rectangular flat wood plates, mark a number of 3 decimals on it and a string to attach around the forehead.  They divided themselves in two groups and scattered in the woods hiding their numbers on tree trunks.  If the enemy guessed the hidden number attached to the front head then the opposite member was out of the game until everyone in one team was out. With time, many of these masks would become marked one way or another and the unfortunate wearers soon found themselves guessed out immediately, no matter how tightly they hid their front head closely to a tree trunk.

They also made rudimentary balls and divided themselves into two teams:  the member hit by the thrown ball was “killed” and transferred to the opposite line unless he caught the ball and then the thrower was considered eliminated.  They fabricated backgammon and tic tac toe gizmos and the like games.  The most rewarding type of equipment were sling shots, wooden swords and arches; the kids would go out hunting rabbits and squirrels within a short range because wild beasts were commonly found such as hyenas, wild boars, and wild dogs.

This system of schooling was expanded to towns at lower altitude for a shorter winter season of only 4 months.  Somehow, a few of these schools constructed annexes around their grounds with the help of the military garrisons close by and were transformed into major production centers for army supplies and exported objects.  In the winter season skilled families of the interned children would manufacture goods and help in the maintenance of the institution while the remaining of the year the school and its annexes would be invaded by skilled workers occupying the living quarters for 6 months. 

There were cases of greedy administrators in tandem with local officials abusing children as slave workers and delaying the release of the able and skilled children. Families got wind of these awful practices and stricter monitoring procedures of these institutions were established.  Families were encouraged to resume sending their children to the nearest parochial schools for a couple of hours during the busy seasons in return for preferential winter work facilities at the boarding schools.  These boarding schools became popular and families from afar trekked their children to Baskinta until new boarding schools were available and mushroomed to every district in Mount Lebanon. 

This system of boarding schools developed into more professional institutions :  Overseas parents inscribed their children for a substantial sum of money in return for lengthier educational periods and better accommodations for housing different age groups of students. In the newer more professional boarding schools with diverse ethnic and religious affiliations there occurred a few religious frictions among the adult students without any repercussions to the children who found happiness and joy in being together, energetic and secure in their daydreams.  Like most institutions in the Levant, the boarding schools experienced traumatic and feverish times but never took roots to grow and then suffered sudden death.

After lengthy discussions, Antoun agreed with Mariam that it would be an excellent decision to offer incentives to municipalities for arranging educational facilities.  Instead of villages constructing more churches, the central government offered to incur half the expenses for constructing schools, the wages of the instructors and lunch for all the students.  In return for free education for a 4-year period the graduates would refund part of the expenses after securing better employment. This edict would be formalized so that no State investment would be contemplated without local and regional investments and participation.  The rational was that if investments were shared by the well to do inhabitants who tend to mind a return on investments then, proper and timely execution of projects were more secured since founded on individual interest.

Within a year Antoun appointed Mariam Najjar as his education counselor. Mariam encouraged many visiting scholars to settle in Mount Lebanon and more opportunities for various disciplines sprouted in education that required specialized higher educational institutions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2008
M T W T F S S
« Sep   Nov »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Blog Stats

  • 1,344,658 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 688 other followers

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: