|14 One City, One School
In December 1995, the Saudi Ministry of Education
revived a one-city/one-school policy for expatriate community schools.
One city, one school: to some ears, it was
like an inspirational jingle from Sesame Street; to other ears, it was a draconian theme
rivaling Jurassic Park.
In early 1996, the Philippine embassy told
both the PESJ and PSJ to resolve their differences and to re-unite. Otherwise, the Saudi
MOE accordingly threatened to close down the two schools.
The PSJ had a little less than a thousand
students, a combination of Filipino and non-Filipino children. The PESJ, barely four
months old, was pushing to a hundred students, all Filipinos. By the end of school year
1995-1996, the PESJ had 120 students.
At the start of the school year 1996-1997,
the PESJ enrolled 370 students and had to keep others on a waiting list.
The pressure to re-unite mounted even
The PESJ interim school board was still
holding out, and it was probably a time when I grew more white hair than ever in my entire
We had to do a lot of marathon school
meetings after regular office hours, sometimes stretching into the early dawn hours. We
faced general assemblies of angry parents who could not understand why the embassy cannot
petition the host government to keep two schools in one city. We discussed around oval
tables the committee reports on transportation logistics, employee non-performance, a
sportsfest on Family Day, tuition collections to meet the next payday, additional
classrooms. We strategized on how to go around the one-city/one-school edict.
I am quite sure my colleagues in the board
were also growing white hair although I did not have the luxury of time to verify that.
We added several portacabins in the school
ground, hired more teachers, brought in computers for school training and administration,
gave out token allowances to cover food and transportation expenses for our
parent-volunteers. We arranged for more school transport services in addition to the
previous years support network of family cars. We shipped in more books from Manila,
sometimes grappling with customs problems at the Saudia cargo terminal. We even put up a
nutrition program and a coupon system at the school canteen.
A student glee club of some twenty 4th
- 6th graders under the melodious conductorship of Sylvia de los Santos was
organized. It was a glee club that sang its way into the hearts of many parents, a glee
club that was largely instrumental, more than anything else, in rallying a good segment of
the Filipino community to our side.
To the Riyadh mission officials, we
proffered all kinds of excuses why the PESJ should be a separate entity from the PSJ.