When we went to register at our primary school of choice for our daughter, we were anxious to see so many cars seeking parking lots, and couples with folders asking for directions. These were the Phase 2B registrants, potentially spoiling my daughter’s chance for a place in the school.
It was only half an hour into the first day of registration, and there were already 11 names ahead of us in the list. All were staying within one kilometre from the school, half of them were Parent Volunteers (PV), 10 of them were Singaporeans, and there are only 16 seats on offer. When I asked how many people were expected to register in this phase, I was informed that there were already 17 in the PV group alone.
Looking back, I think that we may have been a little too laid back about the whole thing. Having already done nearly all the things that would qualify us as kiasu parents, I thought we were very well prepared. Yet, we missed the school’s open house. And, surprise, surprise… on D-day, we forgot to bring an important document.
We didn’t just leave it out, we did not even have it! We could be disqualified from this phase!
When the list of things to bring said “baptism certificate”, what it really meant was “the parents’ baptism certificates”. Silly us for assuming that only our child’s baptism certificate would be necessary, since it was our child who would be going to attend school there.
We rushed back to the school, with only one yellowed photocopy of my baptism certificate. It was a very old certificate, handwritten over 35 years ago by a priest in my home country. No one at the registration counter could decipher what was written on the paper. The man-in-charge told us to get a letter from our local Catholic church to state that we were indeed their parishioners.
It took some time to convince the lady at the parish office of this rule. She consulted the only available priest at the time, who, luckily, was kind of familiar with us. He helpfully agreed to produce this letter right there and then. The letter was submitted and accepted the next morning, ending our possibility of being kicked out of this phase.
The wait for balloting day was intense as we literally marinated in our listlessness. My husband’s anxiety unearthed an unknown reserve of chattiness I never knew he had in him…
We were among the first to arrive at the school’s audio-visual auditorium, where balloting was going to be conducted. We found out that there were 31 people hoping to fill 18 vacant seats. We were pretty dejected to see that all of them were living within one kilometre of the school, and were Singapore citizens.
The Vice-Principal (VP) of the school explained the new method of balloting, which uses a balloting cage with numbered balls. Each child is assigned a ballot number randomly given by the computer. If more than two balls fall out, only the first ball is valid.
The name, birth certificate number and ballot number of all the applicants was read out. Then the VP spun the cage and let it spit out balls, one at a time, after which the ball number and its correlating applicant’s identity was projected onto the screen.
Our daughter’s ballot number was 29. Every time “twenty-“ was announced, our hearts lifted, only to dropped in disappointment. Ballot numbers 28, 30 and 31 were all drawn, but not 29.
The VP thanked us for considering the school and assured us that there were other good schools in the vicinity. This did not comfort us at all and not being good sports, we rushed out of the room to avoid having to congratulate those who were happily beaming around us.
My father told me to get to know the other 13 families who had been left out. His thinking defies logic. The other 12 sets of parents are our competitors, not our friends! Our battle will continue in Phase 2C. And if that fails, there is always Phase 2C Supplementary. Hopefully.