•Why? by Madeleine, 14, The British International School Bratislava
‘We train our children to know how things work, not why. Our school has been the best in adapting to the recent changes. As you can see here’ The Director gestured to a wall filled with statistics. ‘Our children are the highest achieving in the country.’
I stood in the middle of the school courtyard, listening to the Director talk to the small crowd. I should already have been inside, but I couldn’t bring myself to walk up the steps to the school. The group of reporters in front of the Director had come to see the methods of Bushwick Academy. The world-renowned school had been the fastest to adapt to the changes that the new laws had presented after the 2023 revolution and everyone wanted to know how they did it. I should be excited to come here, but all I felt was dread, sitting in my stomach like a stone.
One of the reporters cleared his throat ‘So, how do you have virtually no students failing the program?’
The Director let a sly grin slip across his face. ‘Oh, we have our methods. I cannot fully disclose the information, let me just say that the students have an... incentive to work hard.’ Every word that fell from the Director’s mouth was caught by the reporters. When they looked away, the Director motioned for me to go inside.
I realised everyone in the classroom looked almost identical. They were all wearing grey clothes and greyer expressions. Sheepishly, I sat down, the teacher glaring at me. The lesson went on and I watched the clock go around as the teacher droned on, the students in the class typing frantically. I tried to pay attention, but the monotonous voice of the teacher was lulling me to sleep. ‘The new laws set in place after 2023 were the best for our country.’ He said. Many of the students murmured in assent. Before I could stop myself, I raised my hand, and asked that fatal question: ‘Why?’
One day! I lasted one day! I pounded my arms against the walls of the school and stifled a scream. I turned around and slid to the floor as tears streamed down my face. That’s it. I’d blown my one chance at life. I’d lost my chance at a future. I couldn’t get up. Not yet. If I did, it would’ve felt like I was admitting defeat. It would’ve been like I was understanding the fact that I had no future. The fact that all I'd ever be is nothing. So, I sat, leaning against the wall for what felt like an eternity.
Out of nowhere, someone grabbed my bag. I whirled around to look at what happened. It was a girl, running. Without thinking, I ran after her. As I started to gain on her, she slipped into an alleyway. I ran after her, but she had disappeared. My bag was on the ground. I looked at the building it had been dropped in front of. There was a large sign on it, the words ‘Ask me why’ across it. I smiled. The very word that had gotten me thrown out of schools was what welcomed me here. Without hesitating, I stepped through the gates for the first, but not last, time.