Believe it or not, as I was driving to work yesterday the topic of discussion was about the upcoming school year. In the Middle East we follow the American and British school terms so our school year starts in September, and over the next two weeks the majority of schools will be opening their doors…and before you know it – in 17 Fridays to be exact – it will be Christmas! (But that is a completely different topic of discussion all together.)
Schooling in Dubai is – and always will be – a contentious topic…mainly because it is generally a bun fight to get your kids registered. (Thankfully, according to www.WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, there are going to be nearly eight new schools in Dubai alone opening this year.)
And then comes the fees! If one had to do a comparison of a Dubai school with a South African school, school fees in Dubai exceed per year what some families’ yearly income is! It’s a very scary thought.
My son Daniel, for example, goes to nursery and we pay for it but when he hits FS 1 (Foundations Stage or Grade 0) we are lucky enough that our companies subsidise his school fees. I must say I’m looking forward to that!
His current school fees are around AED 24,000.00 – or R67,200.00 – a year. That is for three days a week, half day. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the facts.
Back to the topic at hand…while discussing the options one has for one’s children’s education, the radio station I was listening to started a discussion about sending your kids to boarding school from Form 6 (or Grade 8) and South Africa was mentioned as a great option for where you could send your kids to boarding school.
They said this is because they believe that the private South African boarding schools offer a very high standard of education at a fraction of the cost that one pays in Dubai, the United Kingdom and the USA.
At this point listeners were invited to send through their opinions on the conversation and the very first message that comes through was: “People who send their kids to boarding school should not have had children in the first place.”
And immediately I thought to myself “there is always that one person isn’t there?” It’s the same person who says “mothers who send their kids to day care or nursery should not have had children in the first place, because you are neglecting them.”
But it got me thinking as well…
I was sent to boarding school from Grade 1 at the age of six, and while my parental choices may be very different now, my parents didn’t have a choice. I was sent to the nearest good school to where we lived and it just happened to be a 40-minute drive to get there and they had a very good boarding school as well.
I, myself, don’t believe in sending my son to boarding school from such a young age but my husband and I agreed from early on that for high school, Daniel going to boarding school would be beneficial to him. Daniel will follow in his dad and Uncle Simon’s footsteps to go to St. Andrews in Bloemfontein.
We have done our research and just because we want him to benefit from the opportunity to become an independent young man does not mean that we love him any less! And thankfully this move is still many years away.
Some parents really do not have a choice in the matter and especially if they are trying to give their children the best education that is possible for them, who gives anyone the right to judge their choices?
I believe that sending your children at an older age will attest to the self-discipline, personal development and independence, which they may not otherwise have developed at home. They quickly learn how to be responsible for their own decisions and how to benefit from this independence.
But in the same breath not all kids are cut out for boarding school…but that is a compromise that you as a parent have to choose. You have to know your child very well to make this decision. The lifelong bonds of friendship that are forged while at boarding school will often bolster and enrich their adult lives.
And these days boarding school in South Africa is a little bit more lenient. When my husband Julian was at school, corporal punishment was still legal in schools and wrongdoing was dealt with swiftly…but that is what was normal during those times.
Parents who choose to send their children to boarding school are not doing so because they don’t love their children; they are choosing to provide them with the best educational possibilities that they can…and until you have walked a mile in their shoes no-one has the right to judge them for that, let alone tell them that they should never have had children in the first place!