“Mummy! There’s going to be actors playing terrorists in school tomorrow!” said my older son, the excitement chipping away at the edges of his voice.
Goodness, I said, my brows knitting together. I knew there was a travelling theatre coming to school soon (I’d sent the money in), but this sounded far too dramatic for a class of imaginative eight and nine year olds.
Further questioning revealed that the school had planned a lockdown drill – something all UAE schools are doing this year, most for the first time. Kind of like a fire drill in reverse: the warning sounds and everyone stays inside.
Explaining this to children can be tricky, and you end up mumbling something like, “It’s safest to be outside a building if it’s on fire, and sometimes it’s safest to be inside the building instead.” Pushed into it … “If we were in America there might be a man with a gun.” [their eyes expand like saucers] “But not here …” (lest they suddenly decide they never want to go to school again).
Well, it turned out there were no play-terrorists (over-enthusiastic primary school kids really know how to spin it, don’t they?). And, to be honest, it sounded more like hiding practice as it’s not like they were allowed to pile tables and chairs up against the door or anything. But the novelty factor certainly meant Son1 told me far more about his school day than he usually does – and went to town on the sound effects.
The alarm sounded, he said, demonstrating it loudly with siren-like wailing. And all the children had to huddle in the corner of their classroom, with the lights off. “The head then came round banging on all the doors, kind of pretending he was trying to get in.”
I’m trying to imagine all the children and teachers hunkering silently in darkened classrooms away from closed blinds and locked doors, while the headmaster prowled through the hallways decorated with student art and jiggled doorhandles.
“We made two mistakes,” said Son1. “Ms B forgot to turn the smart board off, and left her phone on her desk.”
“But Ms T’s class made the worst mistake,” he added, the corners of his mouth twitching into a smile.
“What was that?” I asked.
“They forgot to lock the door.”