Our friend in Islamabad writes again with some better news.
Dear International Friend,
A recent message shared what a US educator was doing with the American schools in Pakistan. Here are more insights from him that can help us understand what is really happening there.
Until next message, good global investing!
This is Rob.
I understand that from over in the US, when you are not sniffing envelopes you are hearing that the war on the ground has been admitted to exist. I think the special troops have been there for weeks, but I suppose they are getting ready to do something publicly. We shall see.
The Board has decided to authorize a first wave of teachers to return even with the present level of uncertainty that still exists. I need to strengthen the MS and HS program and get an administrator to handle the lower school. I may be able to drop teaching bio and maybe continue with the Chem classes with the real teacher's support if needed or move over to strengthen the MS science (my real love) if that is where I am needed. Rationale? This will give us a sustainable onsite program for the 185 students who are here and any who will return in the short term. It will raise our capacity to about 260 and will position the school to receive families when they return. I have tried to choose teachers in the secondary, except for Lory. This is the area where we need to get as credible and sustainable as we can. I have also tried to get teachers who I believe are able to handle the uncertainties that still exist. The acting head of school in Karachi told me that the RSO in Karachi is supporting a decision of the Board there to call back teachers as well — Karachi, of all places. I am planning on bringing Kathi and Matt back to town as well. I do believe that as his father I can have him here safely. I think he will do better academically here than he is doing with the family split up. We don't need all of our teachers back yet, so with the possibility that we may have to go out again, the board has decided to phase it in on an as-needed basis. I think getting 8-12 people out on a plane will be doable if needed and I believe that the folks I am bringing back will be able to hunker down if needed for a day or two if there is a minor flare up. At least that is my expectation.
I am also preparing a list for a second wave of possible returnees to call back if and when the UN and EU begin to return their families. I have had contact from several key families in each of these groups who indicate that while they have not decided to call families back, they are watching carefully and the presence of the school is an important part of their decision. I am hopeful that our decision to bring back the first wave will be a positive factor in the “chicken and egg” situation we are facing. The German and Belgian embassies have authorized their families to return, I believe. We shall see.
Security in town has been fine. The demonstrations in ISB have been vocally harsh, but nonviolent toward people or property. The national strike called a week ago was a nonevent in ISB. Store shutters were down from about 10AM till noon in most markets. It was more exciting in Pindi and the cities closer to the border and of course in Karachi. Lahore may be having things happen, but they are not hitting the papers here or the newscasts that I watch. There are things going on we hear near the airbase that the US is using near Quetta, but it is being downplayed here. I hear that the US has admitted to having ground forces in the south of Afghanistan and the Taliban ambassador just returned from a quick trip to talk to Mullah Omar. I think there will be a news briefing in an hour or so. Delhi seems to me to be like a younger brother hopping up and down in the background waving its arms and crying, don't forget me! I spoke with a few UN observers from the Line of Control in Kashmir today who think that the Pak forces may be allowing India to pound the “insurgents/freedom fighters” without reply so that India can push them back unresisted and thus subdue the infiltration without Pakistan having to actively do that. Two of the main groups up there have made the “bad guy list”. No wonder that the Pak folks are OK with quietly distancing themselves a bit.
We will watch the events this weekend with interest. Having the kids not use buses and getting them off campus by 12:30 has resulted in a solid hope and expectation that we will not have to cancel classes even if we expectdemonstrations in town. They just don't seem to get going until the afternoon.
I will have to tell our regional sports association that we will not host the boys soccer tournament as planned, although we will try to field a team with an alumnus coaching. Having only 185 students prek-12 means a younger, less experienced team than we usually have, but we will give it a shot. We are also starting tennis practice as well. I doubt we will do an MS soccer team (many of them may be on the varsity?) Sunday softball is pickup, but regular. I will try to startup our Tuesday night Basketball. I suspect there are a lot of athletic, thick-necked, short haired, temporary duty embassy staff members in town now who might like a round of b-ball. Someone told me that the embassy actually has more people working there now thanbefore the evacuation. Lahore has had to let 10 of their staff go based on force majeure distress. Karachi's Board and Regional Security Officer have supported the idea of bringing their staff back with the caveat that their local movements and travel would have to be restricted a bit. They are still staged in Bangkok and they are facing a decision soon about the next step. I don't know what they will do. Peshawar is down to two-three students I think. Each of our cities has its own conditions and each school has a unique clientele to serve. Complications abound in the face of the present uncertainties. I and our Board appreciate our staff's tolerance for ambiguity and their continued strong support of the good of all students presently with us as well as those waiting in the wings to return.
Stay well and for those of you in the US — avoid sniffing envelopes, I suppose.