Georgetown, Guyana

My students at the May Rodrigues Vocational Training Center are called “early-school-leavers,” a Guyanese euphemism for high school dropouts. Every morning eighty teenage girls giggle and saunter up the dirt road to school, bright blue ribbons woven through their braids. From Tiger Bay, La Penitence, Albouystown, they come from wooden shacks crowded with ten or twelve brothers and sisters. Without fail, their uniforms are washed and pressed: four pleats in the just-below-the-knee blue polyester skirt. They iron designs onto the backs of their simple white cotton blouses, elaborate geometries expanding out to the sleeves. Breakfast was black tea.

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