A new school

 

Summer started winding down and inevitable thoughts of the year to come crept in.  Days spent living in the comfort and luxury of the new compound were graced with walks to the park, watching the kids ride their bikes and having lazy days at the pool.  As I relaxed and took in the beauty of this comfortable life, the nag of reality came and went.  The one thing I had avoided and shoved to the back of my mind, was now fast approaching and the same familiar pit in my stomach began to prod me. This sick feeling had followed me since that first day of school when my beautiful baby boy looked up at me and said that Amu (uncle)  hit him on the head with a stick. Since then, there were stories of corporal punishment, screaming, calling names and general humiliation of the students. I tried to raise my children the way that I was raised, be respectful and treat others how you want to be treated, use words to resolve conflicts and be aware of boundaries.  But each day I sent them out that door and into the Saudi school system, I felt my life lessons began to sound meaningless and my advice a glaring contrast and mockery of what they faced. I also began to question myself, maybe he had been right all along when he told me that my head was filled with “rainbows, butterflies and sunshine” all ridiculous things that did not help in “real” life.  Even so I still had hope that good would prevail as I gave hugs and kisses, packed special lunches with home made treats and said I love you at the door.

The year before had been spent in Al-Khobar which proved to be very Western and accepting. The school was no exception to this and the boys had a wonderful third year, making huge strides in their language skills and confidence. They had a bold and open, “no hitting” policy,  that was in accordance with a new law in Saudi.  If schools used corporal punishment they could be investigated and shut down. This seemed to mean nothing as I heard stories each day of students being hit and school administrators turning their heads. He had warned me from that first day, not to ask about this issue as he claimed I was suggesting something that was not happening. I continued my inquiries but unfortunately the children seemed to learn that speaking up only made trouble as they witnessed this with other students. I spent 12 years befuddled trying to make sense of the school system, teachers saying they had never hit my kids, children being asked publicly to recant their words and principals quoting Saudi law. It seemed like an alternate reality where I was clearly in the wrong, each piece fit nicely into the scheme of our already sheltered existence.

Now the time had come, he inquired about schools in Riyadh and was told about a large school run by a married couple who were both educators. They worked to make the school a model of excellence, providing free  lunches, a spacious outdoor area equipped with the latest and best cooling technology for hot days and up- to-date classrooms. It sounded like the answer to our hopes and prayers and so it was set, the boys would attend this school. I went along and sat in the car, amazed at the outward beauty of this modern school. Other schools looked old, worn and institutional-like, whereas this was colorful and boasted windows for healthy sunshine to stream in, not the usual dingy and stark exterior. I sat looking, wishing I could walk through those doors and speak to someone in charge, explain that I would be watching closely, that I would not accept poor treatment of my precious boys, that I would hold them accountable and would expect the excellence that they promised. But this was not allowed and so I sat, playing out hopeful possibilities in my mind of cheerful teachers and new friends.

The day arrived and we (the boys, See See, Foof, little Abude and the baby) all piled into the van with the driver  that had been appointed to us for school trips. We made our way to the large school which took about 30 minutes. The compound was located just outside of town and so every destination took at least 20 minutes to reach. As we approached the school I once again told the boys I would be home all day and everything would be fine and that I was just a phone call away. I watched them walk away and into the door, a smile firmly planted on my lips, but inside I felt those same nagging fears and anxiety.

 

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230 thoughts on “A new school

  1. Like something from Oliver Twist Lynz, we are so used to just going in and speaking with a teacher, to be left standing at the gate, not knowing, and also knowing that maybe the boys would not tell you if they suffered abuse for fear of reprisals must have been torture.
    Did all ‘western’ children attend the same state school system?
    Lindy is behind again – I almost lost this one – I have a VERY busy weekend coming up, so probably no post from me for a while – prompt me after a few days if I miss yours amongst mu abundance of mail xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading dearest Lyndy! You must be getting ready to leave soon for the UK? Have a good weekend!
      Well at that time there were no international schools except for the american school and the british school. the american school was very expensive and no way would he go for that anyway. So most western kids went to those schools. Then they started having tons of international schools that were in English. So allot of kids with mixed backgrounds went to those. the school system was the worst thing for me out of everything including my relationship with him. Watching my kids go, not knowing. i will write about it, but my girls went a couple years later to the same school. A teacher hit foof on the head for not knowing an alphabet letter!! So I went in!!!!! I was furious and had him call the school. The next day Foof was so mad at me told me she would never tell me anything ever again! The teacher made her stand in front of the class and say she was a LIAR! i was so mad Foof told me no more talking mom, but no way. I went to the principal and told her and I was soooo upset. She made the teacher apologize and switched foof to a new class. That teacher never hit her but was rude to her as well and i am sure irritated for her talking! so it’s all the same!! I went in to the girls school all the time.I would find the girls locked in their room, teacher left early etc.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How awful for the children, good for you for trying to defend them as best yo – could, but I imagined that the kids would not appreciate it.
        Have yo read ‘Jayne Eyre’? passages from that spring to mind…..
        I have a dear friend arriving in about half an hour for dinner – and I have had my boeuf Bourguignon simmering for 8 hours, so it should be sublime – I add my own little touch by adding chilli chocolate to the sauce.
        We are going to an American friend of mine and his French wife’s home for lunch tomorrow, then due to have another French friend of mine for dinner on Sunday.
        I have got a raging sore throat, but will be OK once I start eating lol.
        No begum packing yet – that is going to be three mad days Thursday, Friday Saturday – as I am staying a while I need more personal items, some books and cd’s and some household items – whatever we can fit in the car with our clothes and the cat!!!
        I am planning a big post on the old hospsitals in Paris where I work – some of them are very beautiful and have very interesting histories, but that is for the new year.
        My friend rang me from Berlin this afternoon, so I may take advantage of the fact hat I am not working and hop over there – I can get return flights from Liverpool for less than £50 return in March – I LOVE this city and would live and work there if I could.
        Better drop the Italian and concentrate on German…….have a lovely weekend, if I don’t speak, you know why.
        Much love
        Lindy xxx

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lynz, it is so good to be back.. and reading this story puts into perspective how lucky we are here both for the USA and where I am in the UK that we have such wonderful educational systems in place where the pupils/students welfare is put first..
    How awful for your boys to be subjected to this kind of abuse, and for a system whereby it is allowed and parental inquiry and objections are not taken seriously.. Where it is swept under the carpet.. I would have been at the school like you protecting them.. This is how they get away with it as they put the fear of reporting any incident into the child as they show the class it will only be worse for them.. Shameful..

    Thank you for sharing this snippet of your life Lynz, It must have been hard on both you and your children at times..

    Sending you Love and Blessings for a Peaceful weekend xx Sue ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. How scary not to know how your children will be treated. I can feel the anxiety in your words. I know there must be lovely things about the culture and the people, but it sounds so tough on anyone without power. The tenderness at home probably made a world of difference to your children.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and the continued support! It is really a little glimpse because I always ask my kids if they mind details and if they do, then I do not repeat them! So it was not fun and yes it broke my heart! It is a harsh environment and there were many nice people but school is strict. Someone commented to me that they grew up in school like this here and other friends in Saudi told me this as well!!! I am glad my younger kids are in school over here!!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. they are good but of course it has effected all the kids! One of my sons told me he wouldn’t change it that it made him who he is. he is smart, successful and kind hearted! so it was a denial thing for years, I fought for the kids, was mad, wrote letters etc. the dad fought back said I was a trouble maker making something out of nothing. then I took them out of school and home schooled! So the three youngest never went to school there and the others only for a couple years!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Lynz, I felt sick reading this because I could feel the agony you were going through. I’m almost afraid to ask what the punishment is for going against the system? You may not know the answer to this but how do they deal with children with special needs? One of my sons has ADHD which required constant communication with the school. I would assume based on what you’ve said here that children who act out would be punished severely. We take so much for granted in this country and while our systems may not be perfect (I don’t believe any are) we at least can advocate on behalf of our children without fear of repercussions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it was bad!! there is no diagnosing of anything that I know of. A good friend who is American married to a Saudi had a daughter with epilepsy and they didnt want her in school! She fought and fought! They sent her home, refused her to be there with any little problem. It was a disaster! I finally wrote a letter I could not take it. the boys came home sad and upset everyday, kids being punched chairs pulled out from under them etc. So I wrote a letter anonymously and let them know I would call the ministry. they knew it was me, English letter and called my husband! So it was tough!!! But they never hit my boys!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I could fell you anguish, Lynn. I wish the children could have gone to the progressive school, which sounded like a wonderful place. It’s certainly hard to send them out into the world, especially when safety is a great concern. Thanks for sharing more of your story and happy weekend! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynn,
    From all I have read, you are and have been a great mother to your kids.
    One thing I have realised as I brought up my own kids is that there is only so much you can protect your kids from. At home we try to keep them safe and loved but as soon as they go outside they are exposed to the elements.
    I have a cat inside that constantly wants to go outside- he looks at me as though I am the most cruel person on earth but I know that as soon as he is outside a hundred dangers await him- but one day he may truly run away.
    With kids we cannot lock them up at home and so they will need to go to school and be exposed sometime. All we can do is pray that their guardian angels are working overtime and they are given the strength to deal with whatever come their way.
    Above all, in the future when they become adults themselves, we need to pray and watch that they will not expose others to the same trauma/ sufferings they have grown up with.
    Susie

    Like

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