SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

August 2012

P1 Registration: The Final Ballot

By now, Phase 2B is already old news. The letter from our dream school, ticked at the “your-child-has-been-unsuccessful” box, is lying on the shelf. It is not a pleasant souvenir from our attempts to enroll our daughter into (what we feel is) the best school for her. But no matter how the upcoming balloting for Phase 2C turns out, we will do it all over again — in a heartbeat.

We have sought other possible schools to switch to. But no matter how much I like the thought of my daughter getting guaranteed entry in to a primary school, I feel that we have already gone too far to settle for anything less than the moon — or in our case, entry into the school of our dreams. Also, my husband is convinced that getting into a school is akin to getting married, a single decision that will affect us (and her) for the long haul.


Imagine my nervousness making my way up the school staircase for the 3 p.m. balloting session. My husband refused to go through the suspense all over again, so I was on my own. I felt like a maiden going to an enforced matchmade wedding — helpless.

There were 42 people registered for this phase. One was eliminated for living beyond one kilometre, but there was a pair of twins on the list, which would lower our chances down by a seat if they got in. Again, we had to check our children’s ballot numbers as we entered the room, and to my surprise, my daughter’s was 29. Again. The same as during the previous balloting session in phase 2B. Deja vu.

I was almost 20 minutes early. Many of the parents had brought their children along. I could not imagine bringing my girl (who breaks down in tears whenever she loses a board game). How she would express her disappointment if she was not selected, is not something I want to find out.

It would have been a good idea to disqualify those who disregarded the school’s dress code. One mother wore a lacy undergarment as a top. A few others wore miniature shorts and slippers combinations. One of the children brought along a skate scooter.

The same set of school personnel was present. Only the principal was absent. We were asked to check for the ball bearing our child’s ballot number. One parent aired her worry about the same ball staying in the cup despite the cage being turned over. Gravity would deem that impossible, I thought, as the Vice-Principal explained the similar in more polite terms. After no more questions were posed, she let the balls roll.

It irritated me to hear parents cry “Yes!” and accompany that with fist pumps and celebratory wiggles in their seats. I alternated between tuning in and tuning out, and pretending I was having an out-of-body experience and looking down at the rest of us hopefuls, sitting stiffly with fingers crossed.

Learning from previous experience, I tried not to let my hopes up upon hearing the word “twenty”, and as numbers 18 and 8 were called, I wondered if what they say about lucky numbers is true.

When the VP announced, “Now we are balloting for the last five seats”, I sat up straighter. Really, only five seats left? I counted the number of red pins not yet pinned next to a name on the board. Indeed, only five left. I decided to tune out even more. At least this way, I could avoid getting hurt too badly.

One number was called, and it was not mine. Another number was called, and it was 29. Wait a minute, was that really 29? I opened my eyes wider. Was my number really 29? I heard my daughter’s beautiful name being read through the speakers.

Oh happy day! In one breath I said a quick prayer filled with gratitude and promises. One of them was to be an active parent volunteer at this school. What a small price to pay. I felt so relieved.

After the balloting was wrapped up, the VP told us that those whose numbers had not been called, and who were keen on a nearby school could meet up with representatives from a neighbouring school in the next room.

One family who was sitting in front of me at the first row remained seated for a long time. I guess they were digesting their disbelief and defeat. They made their way slowly to the next room.

Those with happy faces looked around the school’s grounds on their way out. I passed by the canteen and saw children playing on a piano and watching live reports of the London Olympics. I am glad my daughters and my future granddaughters now have guaranteed seats at this good school. To be politically correct, I should add that of course, that all other schools are just as good.

When I told my husband, he was happy for a moment. Then he asked, “Is it possible that you could be suffering from schizophrenia, or anything that would cause hallucinations?”

Okay, so I did not get any receipt or any kind of proof that our daughter’s name was called. It was forbidden to take photos in the room. But could I really have just imagined it? Should we postpone our celebrations until the official letter arrives? I should make a phonecall to the school in the morning. You know, just in case…

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P1 Registration: The Final Ballot