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Love and Loathing Under the Bridge: 5 Reasons that Compelled Me to Leave SICAS

Love and Loathing Under the Bridge: 5 Reasons that Compelled Me to Leave SICAS

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I left SICAS in the middle of my A1; I was forced to leave. I write this today not out of bitterness or hate (maybe just a little bit), but instead to help you make an informed decision in regards to the school. I hope to further paint the past of this institution, in an attempt to hold it accountable in some way, be it even socially.

Here are 5 reasons why I left SICAS, which primarily have to do with how the institution treats its students.

1. The limited perception of the school

You’d think that if something goes wrong in any institution, one can complain and have the issue fixed, or at least hope to. However, SICAS was kind enough to put certain conditions to this. In order to lodge a complaint, you needed good grades. It was an unspoken rule, but pretty well known throughout the school.

Let me elucidate.

Particularly good at English, I always enjoyed being in the good books of my English teachers. In the 10th grade, I did not. My teacher positively hated me, she used to make fun of my appearance and did not at all take me seriously in any way. I once asked her if I could write about mature themes such as prostitution in my creative essay. She told me if I wanted to write about my family I should go right ahead. On another occasion, she excused 3-4 people for not doing their homework because she liked them and did not extend the same privilege to the rest of the class. Instead, the rest of the class was taken to the office for not doing their homework. It was maddening. During the confrontation at the principal’s, I politely pointed this out.

He asked me my name.

He then proceeded to open my academic history and turned around his gigantic Mac only to tell me that I flunked the 9th grade’s math final and had a D in the 10th grade Urdu pre-mid, which is why my complaint is not viable.

I told him the picture is bigger than grades, he told me to only speak when I have A’s and not D’s. My classmates backed away from me, I was told to never speak up again and this was probably the 2nd most disheartening experience I had in SICAS. In the end, I actually did end up believing I was wrong and was ridiculed for trying to “rebel” with bad grades. Good grades were equal to good kids and vice versa. This was the school’s limited perception. You can imagine how much of a free hand this gave to people like the administrator.

2. Aggression and physical abuse: Professionalism the SICAS way

My fees was almost always paid late. I belonged to a band of 7 siblings and my parents used to provide for me, it just took them a little longer to do so. I wish the concept of precedent had existed in SICAS but every single time I was late, they used to accuse me. They used to berate me, they used to kick me out of classes and yell at me each time. Even when my fees was paid, I was stopped at the gate for being late. Sometimes at just one minute above the closing time. ONE MINUTE.

I was usually welcomed with colorful greetings like, “Apnay ammi abbu se kaho pay karein kal or else we will kick you out”, “Ahmed kal school aa ke dikhao tumhari izzat hogi sabkay saamnay”, “Kal agar fees na pay hui tou mun na dikhana yahan pe”, “Khud laa kar dou pesay humein nai pata get lost”.

I remember each and every single disgusting word that ever came out of the administrator’s mouth. His voice still echoes in my head. After a point it stopped making me feel lesser, it just pissed me off that the guy thought he could vent his frustrations out on me. The accountant was nice to me though, we used to have fun chats often in his quarters. He used to give me extensions at the cost of his own reputation sometimes. Both my O’ level coordinators also used to protect me. I admit one day I was so done with the administrator’s torture that I broke down in the coordinator’s office. I literally had to plead in an office and my coordinator sent that man away. However, my infuriation extends far beyond this. I used to be late every day to school, on the way to school I had to drop 6 others, 5 of which were not even in middle school yet. NATURALLY, it always took time.

On average, I never came after 8:30, a handful of times in 4 years I must’ve come at 8:45-9:00, tops. At first, everyone late was made to do sit-ups and just leave for class. After a point, they started sending kids home. I was always okay with exercising as punishment every morning, but not with getting sent home. Often times at 8:10, they tried sending me home. It wasn’t exactly possible to go home on my own car because the driver had work after dropping us, I usually did not have enough money for a rickshaw, and on top of that going home for something not even in my control felt absurd. I used to sit outside for 6 hours with the guard, hoping they’d let me in and attend my classes but they never used to let me in. Why? School rules/policy. Okay. What about education? You would literally stop a kid from receiving his education because you as an EDUCATIONAL institute prioritize rules over education? What reasonable repercussion was letting me in going to have?

I remember a few incidents in particular that have haunted me for far too long now.

The administrator once took me in, into the little room at the reception and locked me in it for 6 hours, and told me to think about my mistake so I don’t do it again. Never have I ever been in awe of someone’s stupidity more than I was that day. I sat for 6 hours inside a room, the wall of which was CONNECTED TO MY CLASSROOM. I could literally HEAR MY CLASS but wasn’t allowed to sit in it. They only let me out for recess, where I was just made fun of. At hometime he came to me looking all smug thinking surely, I must’ve learned my lesson and now I will change my attitude. I came late again the next day, to his surprise. Was the punishment not enough? I guess not. He said he will deny me access inside. I told him to please listen for once, it is actually not in my control. I told him I don’t do this on purpose every day to be subjugated to your endless torture. He made it an ego issue. Got aggressive. On one occasion, he took me to my class by the collar, went inside and announced to everyone that this is what you should not be like. He then asked the teacher to never let me in and pushed me outside of the class. Of course, a guy being bullied for being feminine was going to try and prove it to everyone every day that he isn’t.

One day, my A-level English teacher said ‘Hi’ to me outside, I was supposed to be in her AFTERSCHOOL class so she asked me to come with her.

Before going in she asked if everything was okay, I told her whatever happens, please do not leave me alone or else it will not be pleasant. As I walked in with her, my administrative knight in shining armor spotted me and glided towards us with the fakest smile of 2015 hands down. He asked her if he could have a moment alone with me, after which he’ll send me to her class. She said OK and left. After we lost sight of her, my administrator turned to me and pushed me. He yelled, “Tumhe waapis andar kisne aanay dia!?” He then took me by the collar (of course) and pushed me again, I lost my balance and my back was towards him. He violently kicked me and then grabbed me from behind and tossed me out of the school. The more people there were around us, the more aggressive he would get. I wonder why. But hey, guess who came late again the next day? Surely, it’s my fault still and I wished this upon myself. Or so I was told. Could I complain about all this? Surely, it was the sensible thing to do. But I still didn’t have the grades to complain, and now you can see a huge chunk of why I didn’t have the grades. Talk about ‘school environment’.

3. The Nail in the Coffin

In my early A1’s, I was the most depressed I have ever been. I didn’t do well in my O levels, I had straight B’s. It was having monstrous effects on my mental health, given how much priority the school gave to grades. I was promised a council position if I got an average result. However straight B’s didn’t even qualify as average. On a regular day, I could be found lying under the main stairwell, maybe somewhere in between two chairs or just aimlessly wandering around on campus. My fees wasn’t paid yet because it was doubled and I wasn’t awarded a scholarship, so naturally, I lost direction because I was just waiting for all hell to break on me again. And it did. The new principal turned the school unnecessarily conservative. She imposed a new set of rules under which you could not “Loiter”, meaning you could not freely roam around campus until 1pm. The canteen was off limits to all A-level students until 1pm, and so were the football/basketball grounds. Everyone was strictly instructed to sit inside a room with a book in hand. Anyone seen roaming around (even if to go to the bathroom) was stopped and questioned (often fined, for no reason). It was chaotic. Imagine going to school every day and not being able to talk to anyone until 1PM. It was pure madness and there was nothing we could do about it.

After 20+ students dropped out, the school was pressurized to change things back.

Moving on, the new principal told me I should apply for financial aid since I was going to have trouble affording the fees without a scholarship. She said it will probably get accepted. I was so happy to hear this, I got my mother to fill the application the very next day. It was the most uplifting thing I had felt in forever. Scholarships start at an A, all I had were B’s. This seemed like it was going to work. I submitted the application and two weeks went by with no notice. I mustered up enough courage to go to the accountant and ask him the status, he looked at me with disarray and asked me what I honestly thought was going to happen.

I had no response.

He told me the vice principal dismissed my application, didn’t really read it and said I’m lying, and that he knows I’m the son of some hotshot designer and can easily afford this. He then sent it over to the principal who signed it, crumpled it and threw it in the dustbin. My luck was stellar, he missed the dustbin just by an inch. I went to the office and picked it up, straightened it. It said “Ahmed is just not a promising enough student”. Underneath that, it specified how I did not have the grades to qualify for financial aid. That one moment destroyed everything I had ever stood for in the name of the school and severed all relevant associations I ever held dear to myself.

I walked out broken, had nothing to say and was staring away into an empty badminton court. My mind was a blank white space and all I could hear was a screeching sound, voices around me were getting inaudible by the second. An hour later, I got up, took one last look around and left.

I decided to never come back. A month later, I joined LGS Paragon.

4. LGS Paragon vs SICAS, an alternate approach to private schooling

The first thing I noticed at Paragon was how their semester fees was cheaper than SICAS. This was insane, considering Paragon had a campus nearly thrice as big and actual facilities too. They had 3 counselors, a school psychiatrist, a swimming pool, separate football, cricket, basketball ground, and 3 different cafeterias, just to name a few. SICAS had half a football field, a swimming pool where the deep end was 5ft, one counselor and a small recreational area. My coordinator at Paragon asked me on my 3rd day why I didn’t come earlier, they could’ve made me MUN president. I was lost for words, I immediately told her I didn’t have the grades. She said I had a decent result, and my MUN accolades were enough.

I sat there in that office frozen. It was the first time a school had ever acknowledged me, after countless years of abuse. I got up feeling extremely uncomfortable, I almost cried. Soon, Paragon gave me a scholarship of 45% based on extra-curricular achievements. When I asked for this scholarship at SICAS, they actually laughed at me. In SICAS, I ended up lying next to a dustbin reevaluating my life. In Paragon, I felt important.

Now, why is this relevant?

The student body at Paragon was around 250, and they managed to make most of them feel important. They personally saw to everyone, and that too more than once. My batch at SICAS was barely 70 kids, most of which did not even know what an SAT was. We all thought college was for people with good grades and that we are all destined for LSE.

Did you know that on every result day, people with good grades receive their results in a separate hall, while everyone else receives it kahin aur se?

Here’s the most interesting bit, one day I was coming to school and saw this kid outside because he was late. They asked him why and he seemed to have a similar reason. I stopped and observed what was to happen next. They let him in and sent him straight to his class. I saw him a couple times outside the gate on mornings, he was often late. Nobody was beating him up, locking him in rooms, or trying to make a spectacle. Nobody really seemed to care as long as he went to class. It was then that I realized how I have wasted the past 3 years.

My only good memories from SICAS came from some of its people, whereas in Paragon I was looking at facilities I never knew existed.

A school counselor who cared about you no matter what grades you had? 3 different school menus to choose from? A school psychiatrist!?

The principal was the friendliest and nicest person I had ever met. He was adored throughout the school. Back at SICAS, our principal would often come to school in his Aitchison blazer and ironically lecture the student body about school spirit. MashAllah. Over at Paragon, I was meeting new people every day, the administrator was nice and diplomatic, but most importantly, everyone was being treated equally. Of course, Paragon had faults, but none of them stemmed from the admin. It’s safe to say the switch was the best decision I had ever made in my life, and I wish I had never gone to SICAS to ever begin with. (I also tried lodging a complaint against someone at Paragon, and to my infinite surprise it worked, there was also an assembly announcement about it)

5. Why write all this now

So there’s a number of reasons I write all this. I hear things all the time about how SICAS is better now. However, there was no accountability. The administrator got away with everything he ever did, nobody could say anything to the principal because he was the son of the owner, and so many students suffered without even knowing they were being robbed of basic facilities the school was supposed to provide. Sure they have a gym, football court and a Kitchen Cuisine (Uh, what!?) cafeteria now but what about the times when it didn’t? What about my batch? The ones before me?

SICAS today is proudly filled with fake grass, which is an accurate depiction of the school itself.

It’s still just as fake as the people who run it. I hope all of them read this, I hope for one second they stop to think that maybe what they did to me, my batch and the batches above and beyond mine was WRONG. No amount of influx in the school can change that and it never will. My batch started out with 79 kids (70 of which were male btw) and by the end of A2, there were barely 35-40 kids left. I’m not the only one who held these sentiments, statistics speak for themselves here.

If anyone likes SICAS, it is because of the people and the shared experiences. Nobody will ever applaud it for the school experience. There’s a reason why the school suddenly decided to upgrade to the huge campus. They absolutely HAD to. Don’t for a second believe it was done for student welfare.

As a human being who was put through what I was put through at SICAS, if I can get someone to read this and decide against their decision to go to SICAS, or even acknowledge the plethora of injustices it carried out, my soul is at rest. It’s no secret I hate SICAS, and as of this moment, I have gotten everything off of my chest.

Thank you for reading, and if you have to make any decision about this institution, I hope it’s an informed one.

Article submitted by Ahmed Mustafa

Illustrations by Aisha Bashir

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article represent those of the writer alone and do not reflect the views and opinions of ProperGaanda. ProperGaanda has reached out to SICAS and has not received a comment on yet.

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