Friday, 1 November 2013

Apple’s School

Saif is teary-eyed and has an injured look on his face.

“Aymen has fired me and she didn’t even give me my pay,” Saif tells me when I ask the reason.

“Appple hired you, and then fired you! And she pays you too…to do what?” I am confused and curious.

“Aymen, your Apple, runs a school. It’s called Kids Club. Maheen, Zainab and I teach there, and she pays us 30 rupees per day.”

“There seem to be too many teachers. Are there any students?” I ask.

“Omar, Roshan, and Mohib are the students.”

I learn more about the school. It becomes operational every time Apple comes to Lahore, three to four times a year. Classes are held for two days or even one day depending on how long the ‘principal’ is staying here. The duration of her absence is considered holidays, and the students are required to revise and practice whatever they learn during rigorous school sessions. There are three students and almost four teachers because sometimes Apple likes to take a class or two. Two of the teachers are sixth graders, one is in grade four, and the principal is in grade three.

It seems an interesting institution.  I decide to meet the principal.

Apple is sitting on a sofa with legs crossed, chewing gum. Looking every inch a principal, she gives me a don’t-intrude look and makes a curt speech before I can utter a word. “If you have come to take Saif’s side, then don’t. He misbehaved in the class. He is a math’s teacher, and he was laughing while teaching. What kind of impression will it leave on students?”

“She was also giggling when she came inside the class, though she tried to hide her face,” Saif voices his grievance against the principal.

“She hardly leaves us alone. And she doesn’t let us make the planner or take attendance,” teacher Zainab has her own set of complaints against the principal.

“And she asks me how to spell attendance," Maheen, the big sister, rolls her eyes and laughs.

Apple glowers at her, and I ignore this irreverent comment.

I plead on Saif’s behalf, appeal to Apple’s sense of justice, and draw her attention to the paucity of good teachers. Apple finally relents. After all, good mathematics teachers are hard to find.

What I find really impressive is the way Apple is carrying out the entire school business. So professionally. And she saves her pocket money to pay the teachers!  

“You don’t get anything out of it, and you pay out of your pocket. In fact, you should get a handsome salary, you are the principal,” I bring up the matter with Apple.

“It's because I don’t get any fees from the parents. I am sending them another notice today. But I have to run my school, so I pay the teachers from my pocket money.”

Isn't this how we all begin…by believing in our passion, financing our dreams. Also present in this saga is some kind of power game. Being able to hire and fire, to be able to pay, to formulate rules and make others follow them… power can be intoxicating and addictive. 

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