The Free Year

in the pool

Growing tired of playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles morning after morning, I decide that it’s time my three and half year old attends pre-school, playschool, nursery, Montessori, Kindergarten, something, anything that sees me doing something other than building lairs for Master Splinter and Rat King.

In early September, I had the pleasure of collecting my three and half year old nephew from his nursery school, the local Naionra. His teacher was Margaret, a neighbour and teacher of the kindest nature. His classmates, were neighbours and sons and daughters of his dad’s classmates, twenty five years ago. The location was, just over the road, at the front of the pitch, beside the playground. The enrolment process was to call in and put his name down. The language, as Gaelige, primarily. The fees, paid by the government.

In the middle east, in expat circles, a three and a half year old is rather long in the tooth for play-school with his peers attending full-time school already, but a mix between being an Irish Mammy, slow to let go of her Messiah, sorry son, and reluctant to hand over hefty term fees in a private English school before time, I held back a little on the formal education. So we were starting with Nursery school with a view to graduating to proper school next September, where he would join the senior infant’s class, catch up and exceed their results within weeks, thus proving my approach to education to be the right one.

I am more interested in the social side of what pre-school has to offer (for both him and me) I’m not too adamant about learning techniques or systems. Happy that my search for a pre-school, a couple of mornings a week, should be relatively easy. Keen to maximise my time in the morning, I set out on the lookout for a nursery school that was located close-by. Little Smarties, Busy Bees, Clever Clogs, any name would do, I was going to choose the one closest. Weren’t they all the same?   I brought along a packed lunch for Junior and a book for myself, perhaps they’d keep him for the rest of the morning, and I could be in Starbucks by 11, reading my book, sipping cappuccino.

Five nurseries later and we had been turned away from each one for varying reasons, weary from the heat, the packed lunch long since eaten, no A/C in the back of the Nissan X-Trail, this was like Bethlehem all over again.

No room at the Inn, was the most popular reason for refusal and the second was that he was classified as ‘too-old’ for nursery school, since the SEC in Doha decided that once children turn 4 they should be in the formal education system.   There was another option, Kindergarten, and after extensive research I can hereby clarify that the difference in Doha between Nursery School and Kindergarten is a 40% increase in the term fees.

Stuck between the fees and the turtles, I proceeded with the admission process. His teacher is not yet clarified, but I was assured that most speak English as a first language. His classmates, were from all over the world, some with English, some with maids. The location was…..complicated. The enrolment process was to call in and pay a Eu.400 Admission Fee, Eu.100 Medical Assessment Fee, Eu.250 Registration Fee and Eu.1.600 per term thereafter. That’s quite a lot of poster paint, I wouldn’t be able to afford the cappuccino in Starbucks, but I looked forward to having the house to myself in the mornings.

I enquired as to the start date, mentally puckering up to say goodbye there and then in the hope that she’d keep him for the last few hours of that day. ‘Oh we have no places yet I’m afraid, but you are now in the pool and when we have availability we’ll call you’.

I don’t suffer envy over holidays, houses, cars (Range Rover Sport excl.) but I’m deeply envious about the Naionrai’s in Ireland, the free year, the local classmates and the introduction to Irish while I’m stuck ‘In the Pool’ with Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo with only a cupla focal – ‘Turtle Power’.

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