30 Mar 2016
Recently, I went through an out-of-the-box feeling assisting a neighbour get their daughter (Amyra) admitted to a nearby reputed school. The specifics are irrelevant, but its best to say that Amyra's parents had been planning on admitting her to this 150 year old school for the past 7 years and despite being well-inclined, just couldn't find a way through. To note, Amyra's parents are neither financially well-off nor can they speak fluent English, and despite these obstacles Amyra herself speaks English pretty well and is otherwise a smart student.
When a close friend's daughter recently started studying in the same school, I wondered why Amyra couldn't. Especially since the missionary school concerned, were well known to charge only a fraction of the fees charged by other 'International' schools in the vicinity.
A month back, I got to know that Amyra's present school was such that the present branch only had classes up to class 6th, and she would now need to travel 10 kilometers (without school transportation) to continue in the same school, in class 7th.
In short, it was time to change school.
At this point, I felt that if something had to be done (as in help Amyra get to a good school), it had to be done now. After her parents happily approved of, I decided to see if I can get Amyra to this desired school.
It all started with a walk up to the school gate, only to be refused entry on multiple occasions, citing, no vacancy. Even when I did get through, despair prevailed, when the school guard (outside the Principal's office) turned me away for lack of an appointment.
Once I managed to barge in on a Principal and realized that there were two Principals (for different School Boards) and I had managed to go to the wrong one! (Yeah Murphy's Law) This Principal was very accommodating, invited the parents / child over and guided the child to what was best, that is, talk to the other Principal, but genuinely conveyed that she can't influence the other Principle in this matter.
Back to calling landlines which wasn't helpful either, since the reception staff too had the same 'no-vacancy' response ready at hand, and just-wouldn't-budge!
That's when I decided, that I would stop only when the (relevant) Principal says no. Anything short of that, and I just wouldn't take it hands-down. Oddly enough I would have been okay if there were (actually) no vacancy, but I wanted to hear that from the person that matters, and no one else.
Next was writing three emails (to email addresses, per their website), and seemingly none got through.
Finally wrote a snail mail (postal letter) and posted it by dropping in, to a nearby Post Office, which eventually got through. That letter, (and seemingly one of the many emails) eventually reached the Principal, who requested her staff to invite me for a meeting.
Today, am proud to say that Amyra is on her way to getting admitted to this school, without any short-cuts, no tricks, no strings, no quota and no exceptional categories applied.
Looking back (and now knowing more), I think I can understand why the management is effectively shooing away anyone who comes for admission because they're already running a packed house. Add to that the Indian Political / Legal system where anyone with any power considers his / her blessed right to get their child (list!!) admitted, black-mailing the administration into suits and false cases. (Yes, I have heard of unofficial stories where local MLAs and SHOs bring a list of names demanding that all of them be admitted. All?, Imagine!). With that perspective, shooing away everyone though looks elitist, but I think its a self-defence mechanism that the school's learnt the hard-way over the decades.
Evidently, even they do listen when someone's very persistent.
Despite the hard-work concerned, I can empathize with the management on running the school on a pittance (of a fee) and catering to owners of the Rickshaws and Audis on the same table. In fact, to me the very fact the same class of students, has such a broad spectrum of children is the best way a child learns about the world outside, but that's a whole other post.
I feel very good today and I guess the courage for this persistence came solely through the idea of what this meant for Amyra, and how big a change would this mean to her a decade later.... That and the movie Shawshank Redemption, wherein the protagonist persistently writes letters to get funding for a Prison Library.
I didn't have to go half as far (as the movie), but feel that being Patient and being Prepared to fail was what got things through.