Academic sacrifice… for the sake of our children

By Saleh al Shaibany — I was walking along the corridor of knowledge passing teenagers as they hurry to their classrooms. It was the beginning of a new semester. I could see the excitement as students talked to each other filling the campus air with noise and the usual ‘first day‚’ commotion.
It reminded me of my own college days many years ago.
The anticipation, hope and even fear of facing exams are still vivid in me.
In a way, I felt relieved as I walked to the registrar’s office knowing I would never embark on the same journey again. Though the room was big, it was dwarfed by parents securing admissions for their children.
As I was waiting for my turn, I looked around the room and my eyes rested on one young woman.
She was perhaps in her late twenties and the way she clutched a small wad of notes told me what I needed to know.
Next to her stood a nervous teenager.
I knew they must be brother and sister in the way they resembled each other. Later I would know that she was the only breadwinner in the family with an extra responsibility of educating her kid brother. She looked resigned to handing over the cash to the educators.
I could only guess what was on her mind right at that moment.
She was about to part company with the money she could not really afford.
However, the only comfort to her was that she was investing her savings in her brother’s future.
A few feet behind her was an old gentleman in his early seventies.
He was stroking the content of his pocket getting the last touch of the money before it ended up in the bulging safe of the college. His other hand was stroking his beard to calm his nerves and perhaps reassuring himself that he was doing the right thing.
No doubt it was his pension that was financing his youngster.
He was enrolling his son to a five-year programme.
My mind, being probing the way it is, could not help think that he might not outlive the duration of the course.
Perhaps the lines on his face reflected his worst fear, the possibility of leaving behind the burden to somebody else.
None of the parents and guardians there had a happy face.
It was a sombre occasion, cheerless and to a degree, very tense.
The only happy faces were that of the registrar’s and his team.
I was also there to pay for the first instalment of my son.
We all shared the same train of thoughts but in the privacy of our minds. I also noticed that there was something strange among us.
We all avoided looking at each other in the face. There was a tinge of humiliation. We all had to bare our souls in a crowded room for the sake of our children.
Yes, we shared something common but we were never in solidarity.
I passed more parents trailed by their children as I was leaving.
I am convinced that none of them could really afford the high fees.
That evening, I felt like giving a stern lecture to my son about my hard-earned money not going to waste.
But I thought against it and let it go.
What was the point? Why lash out at him? It was a matter of pride for parents to do everything to educate their children.
Whether the child takes the opportunity in both hands or lets it slip is another matter.
We have to give up our right for a little luxury to pay for our family’s academic needs.

— saleh_shaibany@yahoo.com