Off to School, possibly

Joni and I are both off to school, possibly. 

Joni technically should start in the official school system this coming March.  Up until now the sala de 4 (4 year olds class) has been an optional first year.  The Argentinean government has decided to make it compulsory, starting this year .  Cunningly they haven’t provided any extra classrooms or teachers in San Francisco (I couldn’t say if they’ve resourced it any better anywhere else in the country; quite possibly not), so the last couple of weeks have been a mad scramble for places.  We went into a lottery (literally; raffle tickets in a hat, I was there) for the school we really wanted, but there were only four places vacant as kids with siblings in the school are given priority (one sensible feature at least) so we weren’t in luck there.  Schools are also taking a clear line that there may not be more than 24 children in a sala de 4.  Teachers’ unions are very strong here, they hold the country to ransom at least once per academic year so it goes with the territory that you wouldn’t find a single teacher willing to teach a single child beyond their allotted quota.  In this instance I am more than happy to know that my child isn’t about to be shoe-horned into a group of forty by some cheapskate minister for education, even if it does leave us with a temporary problem (hopefully temporary anyway).  So meanwhile, still lacking a school place, I went trawling around a few other schools in the city until one of the head teachers sent me off (I guess along with several others) to harangue put my case to the ministry of education. 

The inspectora at the ministry of education assured me that no child will be without a place, and she posted me to yet another school which she said would definitely have spare places (it’s the sink school, everyone’s last resort).  It wouldn’t have been my first choice (or even my fifth) but a place is a place and if there was one up for grabs…  However; “I have no idea why she thinks I have room… I have space for 24 children in the sala de 4, and I already have forty signed up so that’s sixteen going on the waiting list…”  I make a quick check out of another school for good measure but the same story; if even sink schools are operating waiting lists then there really are no places to be had.  Back to the inspectora – this time I ran into a few other parents of 4 year olds queuing to see her,  apparently some are even gearing up for court battles to get their children in  she appears to be oblivious to unfolding chaos and expresses surprise that there were no spare spaces at the school she had sent me too.  We’ve just had elections here this year, a lot of these appointments are “rewards” to friends and family of people who were elected, I’m beginning to suspect that the inspectora may be one of them.  (I wrote this piece yesterday and today I found out I am correct in that supposition; no great surprise there).  However, she does reiterate that no child will remain outside the system and suggests that they will probably be opening some new salas de 4 in February for the new academic year in March.  And if nothing else she is in no doubt that I will be banging on her door several times a week from February onwards along with a few dozen others by all accounts.  To be honest Joni is four years old, if he spent another year at nursery I don’t think it would jeopardise his chances of getting to university, so we are fairly philosophical about the whole thing and certainly not about to fight it out in court; it is just one of those “authentically Argentinean” experiences and in any case we’re only in December; really absolutely anything could happen between now and March.  

I meanwhile as part of my “having-my-qualifications-validated-in order-to-be-able-to-work-in-Argentina” saga, have to revalidate my secondary school education as punishment for originating in a country which doesn’t have an agreement with Argentina.  The ministry of education (seen a lot of them of late with one thing and another) have allocated me to a secondary school.  In between everything they have come up with a fairly sensible plan in that instead of having to repeat my entire secondary education, they propose to devise an exam incorporating the specifically Argentinean aspects of the curriculum in four subjects; history, geography, citizenship and language.  I already met the geography teacher; we had a good chat about physical features of Argentina, agricultural production, climate regions, principle rivers… luckily I like geography.  The language curriculum is a bit of a puzzle to me… it is really language and literature.  There is a lot of grammar, most of which I haven’t a clue about so I’m going to have to put in some legwork on that front before February.  But my real question is about the literature.  This is an “Argentina-specific” exam designed to add the Argentinean element to the education I have already completed.  The books they want me to read include Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Conan Doyle, and George Orwell.  If this is Argentina-specific, who on earth would be on the more “general” list????  Whatever, I am to be examined on this lot at some stage in February, the plan is to invent a single exam per subject, broadly encompassing the standards expected from second to sixth form.  And whatever else happens, I am awarding myself a GCSE for perseverance. 

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