Cogito, ergo sum... (I think, therefore I am)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

So many schools!

I have to admit, I had always looked up in awe at people who could claim that they spent their entire academic career in one school. It's something I have to try hard to fathom. The reason is that I've been to quiet a few more schools. From the start of my academic career till I got out of schools (Class 10 or Matric as it is called), I had studied in 10 schools! It may sound amazing, but let me give you the lowdown on all of them:

1) Some-school-whose-name-I-don't-remember: This was some school in my neighborhood (Khokrapaar 1 number, Karachi) where I lived when I was a wee toddler. Keep in mind that I was born in 1978, and must have been sent to schoolo when I was around 4, in 1982 or something.I don't think I spent more than a couple of months here, because you have to admit it wasn't a very good school. It was chosen because it was walking distance from my home, but I was destined for better places!

2) PAF School, Faisal: This was my first real school, but like the previous one, I was not destined to stay here for long. Limited memories of it. I guess this was 1982 or maybe 1983.

3) COD (currentl Army Public School): My next stop was this school, and I remember absolutely nothing about it! After this, we moved with my father to Saudi Arabia. I guess my education got a bit discontinued as my father moved a couple of jobs (IBM, ArAmCo) and a couple of cities (AlKhobar, Dhahran, Dammam). Finally we settled in Riyadh.

4) A prep school: My father finally joined an American company called Sysorex. The company's official school was the Saudi Arabian International School - Riyadh (SAIS-R), but I didn't speak any English, so I was sent to a prep school, taught by a Mrs. Carrow, who would get me started on English. This teacher and school were amazing. When I entered, I could not read or write anything, and did not know a word of English. When I left 6 months later, not only could I speak fluent English, I could also write one-page stories about Christmas, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and anything else you could throw at me. And illustrated with pictures to boot!

5) Saudi Arabian International School, Riyadh (SAIS-R): All this preparation took me to the school I love best, and will always cherish for life. I went to this school from 1985 to 1988 (KG to Class 3), and this was the best time of my life. This school was all about education, and bringing out the best of you. Today I am proud to hold a Mensa membership, which goes to the top 2% of people, and I maintain that most of the credit for my intelligence goes to this school. Another interesting story is that since this school and my previous school all focused totally on English, I was way back in Urdu, and almost forgot how to speak it. My father is a person who does not stand for such things, and so he hired a tutor to teach me Urdu while at school I excelled in English. I have so many memories of this school, such good ones that if I started, I would never be able to finish. I'll leave that to another post.

6) Love n Care School: Yeah the name sounds weird! But after leaving SAIS-R, we went to this school, which was headed by Big Madam (the principal) and Big Sir (her husband). During admission formalities, my father told the teachers that I should be in Class 3 (despite me having passed grade 3 in my previous school). My father got angry, and said that I will go to class 4. The principal gave me an essay of 2 pages to write in English. The topic was "An elephant". I got to work. A secretary there, who later became a family friend told me a couple of years ago that she saw me there thinking as if I didn't know what to write. She offerred to help me and said "What's the matter? No ideas on what to write?". She says that I replied to her "It's not that I have no ideas. It's just that there is so much to write that I'm thinking how I can limit it to 2 pages". After having impressed the principal with English, she was still adamant about class 3. She said that since we come from an American school, our Urdu will be pathetic. My father challenged her to bring a class 5 book, and if I could not read it, I will go to Class 3. Imagine her surprise, when a small kid from an American school starts reading her class 5 book effortlessly! Needless to say, I got into class 5. This was 1989.

7) Pakistan Embassy School, Riyadh (now Pakistan International School, Riyadh): Another class, another school. We got into the social scene, and most Pakistani kids studied in PESR. So our father shifted us to this school. I studied here in class 7, and was horrified at the standard of education. This was my first introduction to "ratta" and beating of students, cheating in exams, bunking classes; in short, this was my introduction to how bad an educational system can be. There were also fun times. I have always been a social kind of guy, and I made many good friends here. Also, there was the annual "Tent Park" outing arranged by the school, where every student was invited to go to this huge park with rides with their families. This was in 1990, and was cut short by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, after which we shifted to Karachi.

8) Falcon House Grammar School, Campus 4, Karachi: This is where I completed my class 7, and started out my class 8, which didn't get completed, because in 1992, we moved back to Saudi Arabia. This time we went to Jeddah, not Riyadh.

9) Pakistan Embassy School, Jeddah (now Pakistan International School, Jeddah): Class 8 was skipped, and I completed my classes 9 and 10 over here. Made some really good friends this time around too. This wasn't much better than PESR, but since it wasn't the first time, and since I knew my way around, therefore it wasnt that bad. Besides I had my very good friend and cousin Kashif to keep me company, so it was a fun time. But my father's job ended and his visa expired before our Matric exams, so we had to move back to Karachi and find another school.

10) PAF School, Faisal: I ended up back at school number 2, and did a few practicals here, and sat for my Matric exam in this very school. Thus ended my 10 year legacy of 10 different schools.

In hindsight, I think that changing so many schools has been really good for me. I made friends, then I was forced to leave them. This taught me how to deal with saying goodbye to someone, even your best friend, knowing that it would be impossible to meet ever again. It also taught me how to face new people. Most of the times I was thrust into schools in the middle of the term. Kids had already made their friends, already decided who they liked and who they didn't. I was treated as an outsider. But I learned how to talk to people. How to make kids known that I can be their friend. I can gladly say that in the last of my schools, and even in my college and my university, I have always been one of the most popular guys. This, even though I have been one who does not talk much. I have learnt that it's not loud words or entertaining stories that can help you make friends. A better strategy is to just be a good listener, be helpful, courteous and show that you respect the other person. I have learnt a lot. And I would have missed this all out had I been studying in only one school.