On reflection, the single most thing I took for granted when living in Ireland was free primary and secondary education. Yes, zilch, nada, nothing. As an English speaking Irish person living in the Middle East with two school going children I can certify that paying for education puts a whole different tint on the things when you’re child comes home from school with a paper mache creation in one hand and an invoice equivalent to € 2,500 for upcoming term fees, in another.
At the moment there are approximately four well-recommended and reputable English speaking schools in Doha, the criteria of evaluation would loosely be set out as follows, how long has the school been established?, How many English / western teachers are there in the school?, What is the nationality mix in the school? Like most things some are better than others and some are just more expensive than others. Incidentally there are no facilities and the main English speaking schools refuse to take children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD etc. With school fees for one child costing approximately QR. 35,000 ( 7,000 Euro) and some schools having up to a thousand pupils it makes for a very lucrative business with a gross annual turnover for c. 35 million Qatar Riyals and all with 8 weeks off in the summer. So in the role of paying customer as opposed to loyal patron, my expectation is on the increase, as are the school fees. The further up the education ladder you , the higher the charge, so the fees for a year 8 student will cost about 10% more than those of a year 7 student. These tuition fees do not cover the cost of books, or any ancillary costs such as transportation, school outings etc, so all in all it costs in region of “a lot” to educate your children in the Middle East. Some might argue the point that spending your school years in a multi racial school and having an understanding of life in various nations around the world is invaluable but I can confirm that while the value is yet to be calculated the cost is there in black and white.
So you can imagine my annoyance when I’m on the phone to a friend in Ireland and she rambles on for over 15 minutes about the cost to send her little Einstein to primary school, she itemized the school uniform costs, lunchbox, schoolbag, € 30 Public Liability Insurance, € 54 euro for workbooks and readers which all adds up to yes, “damn all” for a good education with a teacher that understands your child’s background and your child can see her face. Tired of the conversation and trying not to have an argument with my oldest friend, I sidestep the subject of education and open up the conversation to social matters as I deliver, “So, how was your weekend” “Do anything nice?” “Oh yes”, she replied and went on to tell me that they went to a new tapas bar this train didn’t suit me either as I was slightly jealous that she had that opportunity and was still complaining about the cost of education, when she ate and drank the cost of a year of her child’s education in just two hours. However, tales of tapas didn’t last long and minutes later she was back on about the cost of children’s school shoes and uniforms. Suitable sickened I reminded her that it could be worse, she could be living in a different country and forced to pay for education, she quickly reminded me that it wasn’t easy living in Ireland these days, I gave up, I told her she really was a saint and I didn’t know how she was handling it all.
I understand that the economic situation is dire but for crying out loud when something is working well for the most part, don’t tear it apart at the seams looking for flaws. Keep it in perspective you’d have to put shoes and clothes on your child anyway and every time they come home with a cute finger-painting picture just be happy that it’s not an invoice.