Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Drama around Shakeel's high school applications

I don't know if you've noticed - my posts have been rather light and trivial of late. I think I've been trying to keep my mind off what has really been causing me headaches - Shakeel (13)'s high school application process.

So we submitted his applications to three of the better public high schools in our region. I'm talking - schools with 98 -100% matric pass rate, excellent academic facilities, very impressive extra-mural facilities (including massive swimming pools, sports fields) etc.

I was confident. Academically he does well, so I was not worried about the fact that his report card would be accompanying his application. In fact, I was happy about it - I thought that would guarantee him acceptance into any school.

The school closest to our home was my first choice (let's call it Option 1). Impressive facilities, a happy vibe - and less than five minutes drive away from our home!!!! The problem is that this school's policy is to accept learners from the suburb in which the school is located, and the suburb on its immediate right (both very affluent suburbs). Unfortunately, we live in the suburb on the left of the suburb in which the school is situated, which places us outside that school's catchment area. Nevermind the fact that the school is nearer to the border of our suburb (and our home) than that of the other approved suburb.

My panic started when we received news that Shakeel's friends had received feedback from Option 1. They were receiving dates for interviews. We waited- and waited- and waited. I carried the phone with me everywhere - in the car, to bed, to the toilet. I was desperate to receive that call. But alas, it did not come.

Then we received a call from Option 3. Shakeel had an appointment for Monday (last week). He was ecstatic - that had been his first choice because many of his friends were applying to that school. But I was not keen - despite the fact that the school boasts state of the art facilities (as do all 3 of them) and a most impressive view over the Atlantic - this school was even more out of the way than his current (primary) school is.

But still no call came from either Options 1 or 2. I was grumpy and upset. Shakeel was reduced to tears - it was a major blow to his self-esteem. He started to doubt himself - maybe he was not as academically-strong as we'd thought?

Mo phoned Option 2 - just to find out if they had any news for us. To our immense relief they said that they had been meaning to call to set up an interview. His interview was for Saturday (two days before his appointment at Option 3!!)

So off he and Mo headed on Saturday morning. The school requested the attendance of the child (in school uniform) accompanied by a parent. Since Mo is much more likeable than what I am, there was no question as to who would go with Shakeel.

They returned an hour later - Shakeel was beaming. He had been accepted - there and then - in the interview! The principal had been extremely impressed with him. Upon hearing that Shakeel had not received an interview at Option 1, the principal said that there was absolutely no reason that ANY school should refuse his application. His academic results were excellent, and overall, he was a really impressive candidate, he was told. I was so relieved. But not as relieved as Shakeel himself was - his confidence in himself had been restored.

The pressure was off. So although he was to attend the interview at Option 3, he didn't really feel nervous since he had already been accepted at a high school. Again, his more sociable, popular parent accompanied him, while the socio-phobic hermit    I stayed home with Aisha (2).

He returned from that interview acting all cocky and super-confident. The principal, who had come across as really intimidating on the school's Open Day, had been really taken with my son. Upon hearing that he had been accepted at Option 2, he acknowledged that that was a good school, but jokingly urged Shakeel to choose his school instead. In fact he said that he would love to have Shakeel at their school and accepted him there and then. Woo- hooo!! Shakeel was indeed as excellent a candidate as we'd initially thought. Vindicated, at last!

The principal of Option 3, like his counterpart at Option 2, also stated that there was absolutely no grounds upon which Option 1 could refuse Shakeel's application (despite us falling outside their catchment area), because of our proximity to the school and the fact that Shakeel was an impressive candidate. He too could not understand their decision.

Upon further investigation we have discovered that the sifting process of the 600 or so applicants at Option 1, is not done in a fool-proof infallible manner by a super-efficient panel (as we'd assumed), but by a woman who has been doing it for years - and whose decisions are very often overturned since they often cannot be justified. Should we receive a letter of refusal, we definitely plan to appeal that decision - although, I must admit that this whole business has left behind a bitter taste for Shakeel and myself - and I feel less enthusiastic about sending him to Option 1 now. Mo, however, being the more practical and less emotional one, insists that this school remains the best option for Shakeel and the most practical one for all of us because of its proximity.

It might be evident to you, dear reader, how I have managed to take the issue of my son's high school application - and make it all about me. My feelings of rejection. My hurt. My anger. I hope I didn't mess with his sense of self-worth too much. Which brings me to my next point - this issue has in fact had a major impact on Shakeel's confidence and belief in himself. He insists that it is only because I made it so - he had not doubted himself until he saw me looking all petrified and devastated, which in turn made him feel like a failure.

Let's hope that whatever school he ends up attending, equips him well for an amazing career - necessary to pay for the long-term therapy he will need resulting from having me as a mother this experience.

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