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  • Writer's pictureBeccy Fox

Where it all began

"Life's a Beach and Then You Teach." My first article published in TES, April 2002, about teaching in the Seychelles.

Imagine a paradise with no Ofsted, no SATs, no performance-related pay, no literacy or numeracy hour, with turquoise seas, azure skies, golden beaches and a temperature that never falls below 24 degrees. Welcome to the Seychelles - 115 tiny islands in the sun, 1,000 miles from anywhere. I have been teaching at the International school here for the past three and a half years.

It all started with the usual Friday fantasies, scanning the back pages of TES Jobs. And suddenly there it was: "The International School Seychelles requires an early childhood teacher." After 10 years of hard but rewarding labour in London's Tower Hamlets, an ever-changing national curriculum and an Ofsted under my belt, I had been thinking about working abroad. Surely it was time for a change.

My CV and letter of application were faxed as requested, and two days later I was invited to interview at London's Institute of Education. It was all happening rather quickly. And where on earth were the Seychelles anyway? After some brief research on the Internet and at the local travel agent's, I felt a little better prepared. Amazingly, less than a week after seeing the advert I was offered the job. At this point, panic set in but I was resolute - nothing ventured, nothing gained. And so I went off to live in paradise.

I had five months to pack up my house and rent it out, to re-house my cats and sell my car, and to administer SATs to my Year 2s. But soon I was ready to go. My new headteacher and head of department sent me some information about living in the Seychelles. I would be sharing a house with another new teacher. Fortunately, she lived very close to me so we met up a few times beforehand and as luck would have it, we got on very well. Before I knew it I was at Gatwick airport saying goodbye to my family.

There were two other new teachers on the flight, and a welcoming committee greeted us at the airport. We were taken straight to a bar on the most beautiful beach I had ever seen.

Our new colleagues were wonderful and helped us to settle in. We were shown around the island, taken out to dinner and introduced to the essentials: banks, shops and restaurants.

We had a week to explore the island before we started. It is stunningly beautiful, with incredible beaches and dramatic granite mountains. There are palm trees everywhere. And there were no signs of the poverty I had seen in other countries. The Seychelles has a socialist government and everyone is entitled to free education and health care. This certainly felt like paradise.

And so to work. The school provides a British-style curriculum and is quite well equipped. I have a class of 20 children from ex-patriate and Seychelloise families. There are reading and maths schemes that I've never used before, but that could happen in any new school.

My job is basically the same as I had in the UK but without the mountains of paperwork, new government orders to digest or inspectors to worry about. But my working environment is a little different. It is incredibly hot and humid. The children start school at 8am when the temperature is already hovering around 30 degrees and humidity is about 80 per cent. The classroom does not have air-conditioning, but is cooled by fans, which reduces the temperature a bit but does not ease the humidity. It is a tiring and sweaty environment to work in. Things get damp very quickly here. For instance, videotapes tend to get mouldy, as do your clothes. There are some new creatures to come to terms with, too: massive flying cockroaches, enormous hairy spiders and the occasional crab from the mangrove swamp. After a while, you get used to sharing your home and your classroom with them.

I also discovered another downside very quickly. The Seychelles is a tiny country with a population of around 80,000. Most of the goods here are imported, and this makes it very expensive. There are often shortages of particular items. Once there was no toilet paper to be had anywhere. There is no such thing as a shopping list here, and your diet is determined by what happens to be on the shelves on any given day. It can be very frustrating, especially if your car has broken and there are no spare parts in the country. My family are now well accustomed to urgent e-mail requests, and anyone who visits gets a long list of things to bring with them.


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