Thursday came and went with no word from Mr. H. On Friday, I decided that Ben and I would go sit in the office, as it is much more difficult to ignore someone who is sitting outside the office door, looking at you every time you go in or out. It is a good African technique. Ben played with my iPad and I played with my phone for two hours! Finally at about noon, Mr. H said he still didn’t have an answer for me, and I should go ahead and register Ben at school.
What I hadn’t realized was that an orientation was in progress at the school from 8:30 – 12:30. Needless to say, we missed that. After grabbing some lunch, we headed off to school.
We got in the registration line, and after some 20 minutes or so, we got to the table with four computers on it. There was a form that needed to be completed, but it had nothing to do with registration! It was about a dog. Apparently, the school has a therapy dog that visits classes, and they needed permission for the dog to visit in Ben’s classes. Otherwise, it lived in the school office, and wasn’t to be abused by the students. Having signed that electronically, we moved to the next queue.
We were in a lengthy queue of returning students registering for the new school year. There was another place for New Students. I decided that was where we needed to be. The lady at that place didn’t really seem to know what to do with us, so after a bit of discussion, handed us off to someone who did. She found another lady to take us to the Guidance Office where we could ENROLL! At last we were on the right track, or so we thought. The Guidance Office had a sign out front to say, “New students enrolling should return Monday between 1:00 and 3:00.” UGH!
I picked up a packet of papers for a senior enrolling. Then our guide suggested finding the ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. We found her in her classroom, and she was certainly VERY helpful. After explaining our situation, she asked Ben if he would like to take an Algebra 1 placement test. He agreed, and she brought in about 10 pages of problems. He worked through those while I played on the iPad. On Monday, we found that he was the first student she had tested who actually passed the test, and he only missed three questions!
On Monday, we headed back to school just before 1:00. Ben took his English test while I sought to get him enrolled. While sitting in the Guidance Office, which I now consider my second home, I was impressed with the way the staff handled the students. How they kept track of that many people asking that many questions I do not know, but I did notice all the staff are women (definitely good multi-taskers!). Some new students were given quite a talking to by one staff person – “You must take responsibility for yourself! Will you promise to get up in the mornings in time to get to school on time? You need to complete your homework and have it ready to hand in! You have had two chances already, and you need to take this seriously. “ To another student she said, “If I’m interviewing you for a job, I don’t want to see your academic record. I will know in five minutes of talking with you what that is. I will want to see your attendance record. If you were absent a lot or late, the interview would be over! I need to know, as an employer, that you will turn up to whatever you are supposed to be doing!” Good advice!
After going over all the paperwork, I needed two more documents. One of those documents required a visit to the Health Department to get Ben’s “shot record” on a Tennessee form. Until they had those, we could go no further. So, when Ben completed his English test, we headed back home again.
On Tuesday, we found the Health Department and completed the necessary forms there. We were told to phone to check if the documents were completed before we returned in the afternoon. When I phoned, they had had some difficulty reading the copies they had made, so I brought the originals and Ben. It turned out he needed three more shots, which didn’t really make his day. However, by the time we finished there, we still had time to go to school to hand in the documents.
At 3:45, we were back at school, Ben taking his Algebra 2 test, and me back in the Guidance Office. I handed in the last two documents and felt I had climbed Mount Everest in the process. Now, they needed to figure out where to place him and what classes he should take. It was decided that Ben should come in at 10:00 to take his Geometry placement test.
I had a meeting on Wednesday, so when Ben finished his Geometry test, I came to pick him up, only to discover we were not finished yet. The main office, namely Mr. H, had put a hold on Ben’s enrollment process, but had not said why. I knew why. They wanted their money! So, Ben couldn’t start school until that was resolved.
So, on Wednesday afternoon, I finally got in contact with Mr. H and found out the number I had been waiting for. Having made arrangements to have this sum in my bank account, I was able to go to the office and give them a check. In the banter with Mr. H, I asked him to contact the school to let Ben in. He did phone the principal, but at that time of the afternoon, it was soon forgotten. So, when I brought Ben in for school at 8:30 Thursday morning, no one knew anything. GROAN! Back home again.
As soon as I got home, I started phoning and emailing Mr. H. Finally at 10:00 he phoned me to say that Ben was now cleared to start school! WHEW!
At 10:30 we got to the Guidance Office and had to wait our turn to be seen. They weren’t sure whether to enroll him as a Senior or a Junior. The problem was that he had completed 2/3 of his Junior year (Form 3). Kenyan schools start in January and end in December. In any case, one of the ladies informed me, Ben could graduate as a Junior! I looked at her in amazement and she assured me it was true.
We sat around until 12:00, watching lots of students coming by and overhearing some interesting conversations. One of the students was graduating early and already had a job lined up for the summer. He was going to be in an office, and was lining up his staff from his fellow students. That young man definitely qualifies as an entrepreneur.
Eventually, the Senior Advisor came out with a tentative schedule for Ben and said he could start classes that afternoon. They discovered he played soccer, so the coach was called to meet him. The coach contacted three of his senior students on the team and had them come to take Ben around school and to his classes. They seemed to be very nice young men. Unfortunately, one class was taking a test but the other was going over new terms: capitalism, communism, etc.
Finally on Friday morning, I dropped Ben off in the morning. As we drove up to the school, he was texting madly on his phone. I asked if he was contacting his friends to meet him and he said, “yes”.
Later in the day, he saw the ESL teacher who told him he had successfully passed his English test and all the math tests! The classes that day were not terribly interesting. One class had no books, so students just played on their phones. In another class, the teacher made no effort to do anything, so the students played on their phones. In Art class, a requirement to graduate, the students were asked to color their names. Ben couldn’t believe he was being asked to do that! I wondered what I had paid all that money for! Still, he met more students and began to make friends. It is a huge school, and they have more students this year than ever before, so I guess it takes them a week to get people in the right classes so they can properly start!
On Saturday, Ben pulled out a number of forms for me to sign. One was from the art teacher, asking for $40 for supplies and for me to sign for permission for Ben to use those supplies. I expect none of my “tuition payment” will make it to the art teacher for supplies, so I’ll need to send a check. Another of the papers began, “After reading this, complete the following information.” There was nothing else to read, so I wrote “what?” next to the “this”. The final paper outlined the courses that Ben had to take to graduate, and to affirm he could complete those requirements by May! I needed to sign that and write a typed letter outlining the plan and motivation for graduating a whole year early. It looks like we may succeed in our plan after all.