An Education

My son is moving schools. Although he vehemently does not want to. Even as I write this have some doubt whether I will be doing the right thing by moving him out of an environment that he is happy, safe and comfortable in. The reason I am moving him is simple, he will get a better education in the other school. There is no question about that. We have been talking about it over the last few weeks and every day he comes up with reasons he should not move.

He said to me today: Mama, I told Mohammed that I am am going to change my school and he said ‘You can’t change! who will help me fight the monsters?’. You know mama there are three monsters at school and without me Mohammed can’t fight them on his own. You know what else he told me? he said “who’s going to listen to my songs that I sing? no one listens to them but you!” He’s my BFF’. That sound was my heart breaking!

I feel like I am forcing him to do what I want in order for him not to need me to tell him what to do in the future. Does that make sense?I feel that if he continues in the traditional, arabic school environment where they are not really challenged to do much and there is no respect for the class room, for the teacher or the subject, that I will be setting him up for failure. There’s no spark or pride in what he is doing and they are not truly held responsible for anything.

He came home today all excited and said “They told me that on the 100th day of school all the mothers can come to class! we will have pizza and coke and we can all bring our psp’s and ipads!” Why?! Why bring the bloody ipads to school! seriously people! We are having enough trouble getting them off the damn things when they are home why let them bring it to school! And did you give a thought to the children who do not have PSP’s?

Things like that frustrate me to no end. I am able to send him to a school where they have sports days where the kids actually play sports on teams and not everyone wins. And they actually take turns being captain as opposed to always giving it to one boy (usually the most persistent one… which in our case is usually S) His teachers and coaches tell me “he always asks to be the leader… and we let him. He is a sweet boy”. He is a sweet boy, and a smart and polite boy who, thanks to his teachers, is learning that he always goes first, he always wins, he always gets what he wants by stamping his feet and being the loudest. Not a good tool for the future.

The school I am considering also has Arabic, French and later on Spanish and German. I personally don’t care if he doesn’t take French Spanish or German classes. I just want him to have the option to. They travel on school trips, compete with other countries in sports. They take social responsibilities seriously and encourage the children to have their own cultural identities while accepting others. I feel like I have a chance to give him these great opportunities in life and if I don’t it is unfair to him.

It is an international school. With a mostly international student body. There are some Saudi’s there and there are some muslims. Am I risking alienating him from his society? Maybe. He has a good network of friends and cousins who he can see on week ends. But as I wrote in an earlier post he will be spending most of his day in an environment that is different to his and will have to find a balance between that and his own culture.

To tell you the truth, I am not worried about his Islam and beliefs because that is taught at home. God knows I did not get my religious beliefs from school. Everything was ‘Haram’ and there was zero spirituality encouraged. What I am worried about more is his language, the slang words boys his age would be using, the subtle social cues that you only learn by being at school around your peers. How’s he going to pick that up?

But in the end, it is my duty as his mother to make these decisions for him. He is 7, he does not know what’s best for him and I would be failing him by not trying to give him the best chances in life. It sucks that he will miss his friends, it sucks that he actually loves his school now and has so much fun in it because most probably he will not have time to have that much fun in the new school. Meanwhile, I am going to go make Mohammeds mother my new BFF and make sure they get to see each other every week-end.

14 comments

  1. Asalamu Alaikum

    Thank you for writing about this subject. We have heard that international schools are unIslamic and that Saudi public/private schools are substandard. But I would rather my son went to an international school because of all the reasons you mentioned above. I agree with you that Islam can be taught in the home. A Qur’an and Arabic language teacher can also be hired to come to the home as a tutor (if needed). Do Saudis still have to obtain special permission before attending an international school and what is the process?

    • Wa Alaikum Alsalam,
      Exactly! It does take extra effort at home of course but it’s worth it. I figured if I can find a nice woman to teach Quran and extra Arabic 3 times a week then great!
      I haven’t looked into the papers needed for Saudi’s yet but I remember a couple of years back hearing that Saudi’s no longer need permission. If there is permission required it seems pretty straight forward to get since I know many people who have their children in international school. I will check on that. What kind of schools do your kid(s) go to?

      • I am homeschooling my son. We haven’t decided on whether we want to continue living in KSA or relocate to the USA. Plus my husband hears all of these horror stories from our friends on Saudi schools (especially the homosexuality) and wanted me to homeschool him. If we decide to stay and find a good international school, preferably an American one if it exists, he may relent.

        I have information on two Arabic/Qur’an tutors saved on my email. If you’re interested, please email me for their details. By the way, they are in Riyadh.

        When you put your son in the international school, please blog about it insha’Allah.

  2. Tara I have heard some horror stories as well but thank God I have never actually known anyone or heard of anyone who knows someone who has been molested or who’s child was molested. I think it must happen but, as is usual with anything bad that happens in Saudi, people inflate the story and decide that all Saudi schools have perverts in them. I speak to my children honestly and in an age appropriate way about being safe and not letting anyone do anything to them that makes them feel uncomfortable. But I did the same when we were living in the UK.
    I was considering home schooling my daughter if I do not find a school good enough but I would rather avoid it. You are very brave to do it and it’s a huge undertaking!
    Thank you for the offer, I might take you up on the offer if I can’t find anyone suitable and will definitely continue to blog about it insh’Allah.

  3. Alhamdulillah. Unfortunately it happens all over the world, not just in KSA. And you’re right, not all Saudi schools are bad. We just have to do our homework by doing a thorough investigation before we choose the school. Homeschooling is certainly a big responsibility! I must admit that I don’t do it everyday. My son is only 6 now so the things I teach him are easy. However I feel that by 7 he should be in school to be exposed to some of the socializing and life skills that I can’t impart to him. I just hope we find the best school for him insha’Allah. Take care.

    • Hello Corrine, the Saudi school my son goes to does IB program which is unbeatable. My problem is with the attitude not the program. I wish the attitude would change because it is perfect! it has both the IB program and a strong Arabic and Islamic studies programs. If they would only change their attitude and get the children more motivated and give them a feeling of responsibility and not entitlement I would not consider changing his school.

  4. such an eye opener,though i don’t know where on earth i will be when my daughter turns 6,but i am hoping ill be able to do enough research to admit them to the proper schools.
    to me proper Islamic education is not a optional,but as u said and as many people including me think, i became to believe that more than 50% of what i learned in school about religion made me more doubtful than affirmed, and after giving it some thought i realized that the most knowledged friends of mine who i know and trust were self taught islamic studies at home (they are of my age around 25 years or so now)
    but i am not the best muslim to be teach my own kids islamic studies,my wife is a better muslim than i am but she is also a professional..very tricky.

    Mama Bee,i went to a Saudi Public school in makkah,my elementary school wasnt anything remarkable but rather very ordinary,and believe me,the stories you hear are very real,i witnessed some,and managed to stay away from,i remember them very well till today,and sadly i never shared the stories with anyone.

    may god protect our little ones

    • Hello Dentographer, inshallah by that time the Saudi schools that are trying to implement higher standard curriculum will be in full swing and you won’t have trouble finding a good school. I am still going back and forth between the idea of changing his school next yes or not. If I do then we will have a tutor for Islamic studies come the house… I will do the istikhara and see what happens. My best option is to leave it to God.

      It’s so sad that horrible things happen… What is it? Does it happen here more than other places? It’s horrible though. I hear more and more stories about things like this from adults who never spoke about it when they were kids or now.

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