Of course, all the government schools are Arabic, so you’re forced to attend a private English-speaking school, unless of course, you’d prefer, a French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, Austrian, Swiss, Finnish, Russian, Pakistani, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, anyway you get the picture, every nationality is catered for in Qatar, every nationality, except for Irish.
It becomes the on-going battle of the Irish Mammy abroad. (the term, Irish Mammy here also pertains to Irish Daddy, and transgender parents. The term ‘Irish Mammy’ is not to suggest that the woman, person even, has nothing more in her life than raising children, nor does it lend itself to any clapped out stereotypes that exist about the ‘Irish Mammy’ about going out with your hair wet or separating money into different pockets when going on a school tour or Dublin, the term exclusively refers to, Irish people with children, that now live in Qatar)
Anyway, the Irish Mammy rocks up in Qatar, delighted that her kids will get the hefty reputation of attending a private school in the middle east and she welcomes the day, when the baby, 2 years and 4 months follows suit. All is well until the administration department at the school mention that your baby should lodge their application now for September. Aghast, many Irish mammies are taken aback, ‘the baby going to school?!!’ ‘Obviously he’ll have attend an assessment first, but hopefully he’ll pass, he seems a bright boy’. The Irish mammy looks at her baby happily banging his head against the wall with the bucket on his head, an assumes that they have heightened ability to see potential in toddlers. Nevertheless, she speaks up, ‘I’m not sending him to school in September, he will stay at home with me for another year, counting clothes pegs and spending the first two hours of every day slopping around with a plastic bowl of Rice Krispies’.
O Fortuna, Carmina Burana pipes up in the background, the admissions officer, fingers her tiffany pendant and says, ‘he is of age, he must come in September, otherwise he will miss that first formative year and he will be behind forever’. Irish Mammy glances back to her boy, now picturing a grown man wearing a bucket on his head and banging it off a wall, ‘Ah I’ll take that risk, sur he’ll catch up’.
Irish Mammy leaves the office confidently sits in car and crumbles. Uncontrollably crying she blubs down the phone to her husband, he that brought her here in the first place, ‘they said he must go, he has to go to school in September and he must be toilet trained before that’.
This people, is not farce, this is exactly how it works here in Qatar. By the time children turn the tender age of One, parents are already looking at nursery schools, nursery school which starts at 6.30/7 and ends at 2/2.30, a full day and a fully curriculum, complete with themed days, events, arts crafts, counting and shapes. By the time they turn three they are enrolled in school, the same school that has primary and secondary facilities. Your three-year-old, must be fully toilet trained, be able to hold a pencil and be up at the first call to prayer to make the register time of 7.25am. By the time you pick them up at 2pm. walk them to the car in fifty-degree heat and keep them awake all afternoon for swimming, ballet and gymnastics you can be guaranteed they will sleep the night, and so will you!
This is where it takes the staunch Irish Mammy to stand up, fight the fight and curb the British system to suit themselves and don’t become just another brick in the wall. I dodged the application form and marched my boy in a year late at 4. Now with a two-year-old, I guarantee I will do the same, so stay strong women, you can say no and if all else fails you can always use the famous Irish Mammy caveat, ‘ah sur he’s only a baby’.