Wednesday, March 23, 2011

School Search

My son just turned three years old a few weeks ago.  Ever since he made his grand entrance into the world, people have been asking, “Where will he go to school?”  Even before he was born I was asked what nursery he would go to!  I really did not know the answer to that question then, and now that he is three, I still have no idea of our preferred primary school.  While I know children grow up fast, do I really need to have the answer to this question now?  In Dubai, apparently I do.
There are public schools for locals in Dubai, but the rest of us send our children to one of the many private schools here.  While it is nice to have choices, I find the options and fees a bit overwhelming.  There are many different systems - American, British, International, etc. - all of which I am sure I do not know the difference.  And the prices, there are many to say the least. I know modern education is not cheap, but I really do not know what fee is proper value for the money.  My husband and I both attended regular, “what was available” schools and we like to think we didn’t turn out too bad.

Realizing I would want him to have some other stimulation than just home life when I returned to work, I started looking for nurseries shortly after he was born.  It was an eye opening experience, and I began to learn more about the mommy instinct.  I could walk into one place and in pretty much less than one minute understand if I liked it or if it felt like an appropriate place to send a child.  Sometimes it was a smell, or kids watching television that turned me off, other times it was an unexplainable feeling.

I found one nursery that I really liked compared to the others and since they took children from a young age, I preferred this rather than waiting until later.  However, there was a big issue in the manager, or head teacher, or whatever she was because according to her, it was just impossible that my child would get into that school because of the very important Waiting List.  I emphasize this word because it is almost like a four-letter word or cliché in this city, or something of a higher importance with almost divine power. 

I went back again a few weeks after my first visit to look and press more about this magic list and when it might open up.  Oh the vagueness.  “Well, we don’t really know”.  Huh?  You don’t know at all how long your waiting list is?  Now I have heard of the more desirable passport, and I believe most of the children at this school could have a British passport, so perhaps some riff raff from the colonies was not acceptable.  I pressed on this subject, but yet they just really did not know.  Whatever.

I am not sure if it has become apparent through my blog, but I am stubborn… or maybe the positive spin is determined.  Some of my son’s teachers have found him determined.  Kind women. 

I went back to look at the same nursery again with my husband because I really wanted our son in a good place before my maternity leave was up.  And while this woman was telling me it was virtually impossible in this lifetime, I am told that it is often the message that many good schools here send. I must be persistent.  So I play the game. 

My husband is much more clever and patient with these things than I am.  So we go, see the school, and again I listen to the impossibility of how long the list is.  I may have a better chance at walking on water. 

Just before leaving, my husband casually drops his business card and instructs the woman to call him in case anything opens up, as I will be travelling next week.   Ironically, about five days later he did get a phone call from the school saying a place had opened up.  I am sure that had nothing to do with the Ivy League school name that was on his business card at the time.

I was both happy he got in, but also very angry that a business card or a brand could have been the reason behind it.  I don’t care if it worked to my benefit.  Out of principal, it is not right.  It is not a bad school by any means.  I love it and so does my son, but I hate this kind of divide.  And I know it is not just in Dubai, this happens throughout the world.  I wish that everyone was treated equally and privy to the same opportunities, but sadly, this is a reminder that we are not.

This was just the experience for nursery school.  I have only begun to scratch the surface on the “big boy” schools and what waits for us out there!  


Noon Kaaf said...

Spot on Pam!!! This sure is a problem in Dubai. But you will be surprised that it is a problem in many developing countries as well. And the card with the right title etc always helps. :-))

Pam said...

Thanks.. wait 'till you hear some of the interesting things in the big school search.. funny..