Beyond school days… catching up with an old friend

By Saleh al Shaibany —
I decided to touch base with an old schoolmate when I heard he came over to Oman.
We were just in our mid-teens when we last saw each other.
I was both amused and shocked to hear that before reaching his middle-age, my friend has been divorced three times.
He is now, in his own words, “enjoying” his fifth marriage.
As I was looking at him, my mind drifted to the schooldays.
There was nothing there to suggest that this man was going to be prolific in the art of matrimony.
But then there is nothing teachers can teach at school to prepare you for such thing. Marriage, work and responsibilities were far from our minds then. We tried to strike a balance between play and education.
I am not sure which of the two has influenced my life more.
I wondered if some aspect of play and education had something to do with his taste in marriage. I was tempted to ask him but refrained from doing so.
After all, our reunion was supposed to catch up with the lost time and not digging up pains of the past.
He knew what was going in my mind and quickly changed the subject.
He talked about our teachers, friends and the events that changed our lives.
We came to a conclusion that, as we went different ways to pursue separate careers, we left behind a life that was different to the one we lead now.
In the middle of these thoughts, I spared a thought for our children, who live in the age of home computers and virtual reality.
Learning is much easier now with the presence of all the technology around them.
Parents, eager to make something out of their children, provide extra tuition themselves or pay someone else to do it.
There are also array of educational softwares and the Internet to tap a wealth of information.
My children did not think much when I told them how I used to struggle with my schoolwork. “We solely relied on the skills of our teachers,” I said to them, “there was no electronic media to fall back to or parents knowledgeable enough to help us.”
They looked at me and their expressions asked, “so what?” My first reaction was to be angry, but then, on second thought, how could I blame them for something they were not responsible for? We all know how they take learning for granted, something we could never afford to in our day.
One of them, more from curiosity than to challenge me, asked,” what method did you use to study?”
“I wish we could send each other email messages to help with our revision,” I told him.
He told me that was history now because things have changed in the past three years. Now they have a school website to help them with their work.
They don’t even have textbooks or write notes. Those days we had to write endless notes at a speed of light from the words of teachers.
It is all too easy now for them. And it is getting easier by the year.
I hope that I would still be around to see my grandchildren go to school.
That would give me the opportunity to see what kind of advice my children would give to their own children.
It would be nice if we could all sit together one day and compare the teachers and learning materials of three generations.
With academic work becoming simpler, I sincerely hope that none of my four sons would find enough clues to help them marry more than once in later life.