Some notes about SUB

How I came here.



          Hello, readers and visitors, let me introduce myself. I am a retired American of Russian origin, now working in the position of "International Principal" at SUB (Sekolah Unggulan Bangsa) in the city of Medan, North Sumatera, Indonesia. Before my retirement in 2003 I worked in USA for several high-tech companies, the last of which was "Maxwell Technologies", a semiconductor manufacturing company in San Diego, California, there I had a position of Radiation Testing Analyst/Engineer.

          I hold a Ph.D. degree in Engineering from the Academy of Sciences of Russian Federation, where I used to work many years in the area of design and testing of geophysical instruments - magnetometers, seismometers, data acquisition systems, etc. With these instruments I have traveled all over the Earth, including many countries in Europe, Asia and America, as well as 2 trips to Antarctica. I have 24 scientific papers published in international scientific magazines, and 2 scientific books translated by me from English into Russian.

          So, after 3 years of living in retirement I decided, that this quiet life is not for me, and started looking for some teaching job. The area of teaching was easy to find - I could teach Physics, Mathematics and Geography to the students of any age group, and I could do this in any of 3 languages - English, Russian or French. The rest was relatively straightforward - I posted my resume, photo, front page of USA passport and other supporting documents on the "seriousteachers.com" bulletin board and started answering the incoming offers.


          On May 25, 2007, the following offer came from Mr. Johan Salim to my mailbox:

 

Dear Boris,
Thanks for the mail and sorry for the delay in replying to it.
Please  find below the terms and see if they are ok with you.
1.Full time teaching staff
2.Working hours : 40 hours / week
3.Teaching hours : 25 hours / week
4.Teaching responsibilities include :
a.Be part of the team in formulating and improving
teaching quality, curriculum and producing excellent
students
b.Monitoring students' progress, communicating with
parents regarding the progress, counseling and
providing extra lessons to problem students if
necessary
c.Willing to be in charge of  a position as class
head, level head,  subject head or department head or
in charge of any school projects that suit to your
ability
d.Actively involved in extra curricular activities
within school and outside school that is organized by
school
e.Willing to help/be involved in administration and
school promotional activities
f.Teaching in sister school within our Education
Foundation

The Facilities you will get:
1.A round trip economy class air ticket (50%
reimbursed at the end of 6
months and the remainder at the end of the contract.)
2.One year renewable contract
3.Visa, Work permit and Foreign Workers Tax paid for
by the school.
4.Health Insurance
5.Meal 2 x / day (lunch / dinner) during working days
6.Transportation to & from school with school driver
7.Free fully furnished shared accommodation  
8.Free utilities : electricy, water, gas
9.Free Drinking water
10.Free internet facility
11.Free maid service for cleaning and laundry
12.Cultural & country exploration (with or without
students)
a.Free tour to surrounding famous areas : 1x/3 months
Destination:
Brastagi
Hiking
Prapat / Lake Toba
Haranggaol
Bukit Lawang
Or similar

b.Saturday Medan city tour (3x) / famous restaurants
(3x) / mall (3x) / movies (3x) : 12 x / year = once a
month
c.2 weeks paid holiday by the end of contract
(+ school holidays)
d.Bonus tour for continuing contract during 2 weeks
paid holiday
Destination:-  Malaysia ( Malaka/Penang/Kuala Lumpur )
     -  Indonesia (Bali)Or similar as requested
e.Language: learning Indonesian language through
students' club
f. Monthly salary : USD650/NETT
or alternately USD1,000/with foreign
worker tax, accommodation and meals excluded.

School / Teaching Information

Foundation : Unggulan Education Foundation
I. Main school where you will teach
School Name : S.U.b (Sekolah Unggulan Bangsa)
Add  : Jl. Kapten Muslim No. 92
City  : Medan
Province : North Sumatera
Country  : Indonesia
Telephone : +6261-8456194
Fax  : +6261-8445128
Classes  : Kindergarten, Primary, Secondary,
                  High School
Additional Information:
*X Private Christian school
*X National Plus with English Speaking Environment
 

    This offer looked reasonably good, so I agreed with the terms, started preparing myself for departure, and on July 9, 2007, I landed in the Airport of Medan Polonia. There I was greeted by three members of the SUB staff - Jenny, Rico and Alfred, they brought me first to the teachers' house, where I left the suitcases, then they brought me to the school, where I met Mr. Johan and was able to discuss some details of my position.

 

Teachers' House

          Remember what Mr. Johan promised in #7 of his E-Mail: Free fully furnished shared accommodation...

          Maybe in the mind of Mr. Johan the foreign teachers deserve nothing better, but his ideas of "fully furnished" are at least strange, if not outright insulting.

          The bed was made out of 2 unfitting pieces, and was covered by worn-out plastic, which had gaping holes and stripes hanging out of these holes. Later I saw the beds in this condition all over the city - they were lying in the junk heaps, thrown out by previous owners due to excessive age and wear. The pillow was so dirty, that the first thing I did was to wash it with the detergent, it took then 4 days to get it dry. There were no bed sheets, and I thanked myself for taking a set of bed sheets along with me from America, there were also no towels, so again I used my American "imports". There were, however, a blanket and a bed cover, both of them also in immediate need of washing.

          There was not a single table in the teachers' rooms (there is still no one now), the only one table is located in the common hall, it is used by all teachers for eating and for doing all of their chores - lesson preparation, checking the students' homework, for about 2 months this table was also used for ironing the clothes, until after one of the fights the school finally gave teachers a real ironing board.

          There were no wardrobes, and even now, after 4 months of fighting, for 4 teachers we have only 3 wardrobes, all of which are in the same condition (and probably of the same origin), as my bed.

          Mr. Johan's ideas of "shared accommodation" are also very strange.

There are now 4 teachers in the house - myself, Ms. Zhao, the teacher of Mandarin Chinese, Ms. Maridol, who teaches English and Science, and Ms. Edna, who teaches English, History and Home Economics. But there are only 3 rooms in this house, so 2 Filippino teachers, Ms. Maridol and Ms. Edna, share one small room, the other 2 rooms are occupied by me and by Ms. Zhao.

At the moment of my arrival, not a single room had an air-conditioner installed, for Indonesia this means that teachers have no escape from the permanent heat of the country. It took us about 2 months of fighting to get air-conditioning installed in 2 rooms out of 3 - Ms. Zhao still has no air conditioner in her room, so when she needs to cool down, she comes either to Filippino teachers, or to me.

Remember also the promise #11 - "Free maid service for cleaning and laundry". This one never materialized, teachers are doing all cleaning and laundry by themselves, instead the school hired 3 "Academic Supervisors" - one for the primary classes, another one for the secondary classes, and the third one to supervise 2 previous ones - this is the only one, who has access to the bosses. More about this "Supervision" later, when we will talk about teachers' workload and other academic affairs.

          In short, I consider this "Free fully furnished shared accommodation" to be such a blatant breach of promises, that it can justify the immediate termination of contract without any sanctions, as soon as a teacher finds for him/herself any suitable alternative.

The Contract


          In many instances, the SUB administration refers to the Contract, which was signed between the School and the Teacher. Let me set the record straight, and point out to the respective parties, which are their duties, rights and obligations under these agreements.

          First of all, from the point of view of the law, this contract does not exist.

          All agreements between the school and the foreign teachers were signed at the moment, when foreign teachers did not have the working visas, enabling them to work in Indonesia. So, actually, the School signed the contract with Illegal Immigrants.

          It is clear, that people, who never have been to Indonesia, do not know enough of local conditions of life and employment. These people can agree to very unfavorable terms in their contracts, and the Management will then refuse to renegotiate the contract out of fear to lose their advantages. So my point is, that the foreign workers have nothing to fear, because the School had no right to sign any document with undocumented people. In fact, if this story will become known to the Immigration authorities, this can spell a lot of legal problems for the school.

          School has now no legal contract with the teachers, consequently teachers have no legal obligations before the school. All the threats to use contract provisions, such as making a teacher pay 3 months of salary in case of resignation, are empty words, the school will never go to the court in such case, simply because then all this story about contracting the illegal immigrants will come out.

Classrooms, Library, Laboratories, Maps, etc.


   
About the first thing, that surprised me in SUB, was the school clock - it was 5 minutes in advance, and nobody seemed to care about this discrepancy. There was also no clock-driven mechanism to turn on the school bell, all the bell signals were switched on manually by the members of the staff, sometimes with 5-10 minute errors, and sometimes even at inappropriate moments.

    A much bigger surprise was, that the school had no library, not even a storeroom for textbooks. Even the textbooks themselves were absent, they were ordered from a Singapore publisher and did not arrive before Mid-September, well over one month after the start of school studies. So it happened, that for about a month and half teachers and students had no textbooks and the content of the lesson was determined just according to the teacher�s imagination. For example, I taught in all classes the binary and hexadecimal number systems, introduced students to the fundamentals of digital logic, AND, NAND, OR, NOR and XOR operations, showed them the applications of these operations for decision-making and for digital encryption. Other teachers did similar things, and this all lasted until the arrival of books from Singapore.

    In line with these surprises was the discovery, that the school had no laboratories. There was no promised Internet facility, the computer room consisted of 8 inadequate computers, there was no equipment for physics laboratory, for chemistry and biology laboratories, and there were even no rooms dedicated for these laboratories.

    Since I was supposed to teach Mathematics and Geography, I could do nothing meaningful until the arrival of textbooks. When these finally arrived, I looked through the Geography textbook and asked, where are the maps for teaching this subject? It turned out, that the school had not a single large-format map, which could be hanged on the wall. Not only the world maps and maps of the continents were absent, there were no big maps of Indonesia or any one of its islands. Here I must note, that the situation has not changed until today, there are still no maps and no room to keep them. So when I need to tell students, for example, about Africa, I ask them to open the small-scale world map at the end of their textbooks, to find there the African continent, then I go around the class, explaining to each 2-3 students in turn, what is it that they see on the map, what is its name (Kalahari Desert, for example), which countries are located in the Kalahari Desert, and why this Kalahari Desert is interesting for them to study. The only slight resemblance of maps, which I received up to now, is the 50-page Atlas, half of which is dedicated to Indonesia, and the other half to the Rest of the World. This atlas is just 30x45 cm large, and it in no way can be a substitute for real large-format maps.

    However, there are 3 rooms dedicated for staff, all of them air-conditioned and with good lighting.

    When I say "dedicated for staff", I really mean staff, not teachers. Rooms have places for "academic supervisors", "administrative assistants", "communication managers", and all other types of paper-pushers. The staff is in permanent state of boiling activity, typing lists, reports, orders, posting papers on the bulletin board, distributing and collecting various forms from teachers, and preventing everybody from talking directly to the bosses. These two - Mr. Johan and Mrs. Triana - occupy a separate room, which can be accessed only by permission of staff.

    Classrooms themselves are miserable, to say it mildly. In secondary school only 1 classroom out of 3 have has adequate windows for day lighting, in other 2 classrooms there is only electrical lighting, so these 2 classrooms turn completely dark with each interruption of power supply. This might be adequate for a storeroom, but for a classroom this situation is absolutely unacceptable.

    In primary school the situation with day lighting is reasonably good, but there are other problems. The doors are made of such a weak material, and with such bad quality, that even the 1-st grade students can easily break these doors, which has happened already more than once. The doorknobs, locks and hinges were broken during the first 2 weeks of school operation, so now the primary school presents a picture of gaping open doors, nonworking locks and broken doorglasses.

    Air-conditioning in the school is absolutely inadequate. For example, the Primary-1 classroom has the windows, which cannot be closed tightly, and in addition to this, one of the walls has about 20 round holes, each one 10 cm in diameter, going straight to outside air. One single air-conditioner of 0.75 horsepower is helpless before this mighty influx of hot air from outside. The situation in the secondary school is similar, with the exception of the Mr. Johan's and Mrs. Triana's office.

    Now we must take into account, that teachers still have no dedicated room for them. Teachers' tables, where they keep all the working material, all their personal belongings, where they prepare for lessons and where they have their meals, are located in the common passage of the primary school, without even a wall, which would separate the teachers from running, playing and shouting students. Obviously, there is no air-conditioning in the common passage, but there is a constant curiosity of students, what is it, that teachers have for lunch today. It is understandable without saying, that no "academic supervisor" from the staff ever comes there to share a meal with the teachers.

Computers and Internet


    Here I must ask for excuses, if my presentation will sometimes turn a little too technical. Being myself a certified Web Administrator and with about 40 years of computer experience behind my back, I cannot resist the temptation to describe the technical and administrative fallacies which resulted in the present situation. I will try to accompany technical terms with non-technical explanation, so that the readers would be able to understand the real meaning of what is happening in SUB.

Each system begins with a project, and a computer network for a school is no exception. There must be an understanding of the structure of the network, of the components included, of requirements to each component, of possible bottlenecks and ways to avoid them, of acceptable and unacceptable compromises, of necessary security level, and finally, of the costs involved in a)building the system and b)maintaining and operating the system.

Since many of the customers willing to have a computer network and Internet connection do not have enough expertise in this area, one of the most important problems is: Build it yourself or Hire a professional? Both variants are possible, each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Unfortunately, in many cases people are driven by the desire to achieve the result as cheap as possible. This obviously excludes hiring a professional, this excludes purchasing the high-grade components, this means making some unacceptable compromises, disregarding security requirements, but most importantly, it means neglecting the costs of maintaining and operating the system. This is understandable, because in a greedy person's mind, the savings from cheap system are Now, and the increased expenses will come Later.

Now let us turn to the particular system - the SUB network and Internet connection.

Which computer configuration would be adequate for a school with classes of 15-20 students? Looking at the modern mainstream market, we can think of something like following:

 

Desktop computer with 15-17 inch LCD monitor (resolution 1280x1024)

3,0 - 3,6 GHz processor with 512 Mb memory

120-160 Gb hard drive (internal IDE or EIDE)

Nvidia or ATI graphics card with at least 64 Mb graphic memory

Sound card with at least 16 bit 128 Khz sampling

CD/DVD drive with RW capability.

10/100 Mbit Network card (2 cards for central server)

4 USB ports and 1-2 FireWire ports

Accessories: Keyboard, mouse, joystick

 

Also a complete system must include at least 1 printer, a switcher/hub for Internet connection, and necessary cables.

 

Now comes the question of software. Here the system builder has 2 options - Microsoft Windows or Open-Source Unix-based system (Linux or BSD). Windows is more expensive, needs licensing, but provides assistance and updates from the manufacturer, Open-Source is basically free to get and install, does not need any kind of licensing, but the updates and assistance are provided mainly by user groups. In addition, practically all existing hardware is supported under Windows, whence under Open-Source the system builder must be careful in selecting the devices which will work under this system. However, for school purposes this is rarely a problem, most printers are well supported, external hard drives and CD drives are supported, and schools practically don't use scanners, graph plotters and other non-standard devices. Both systems have reasonably good Office packages, in Windows it is MS Office, in Linux it is Open Office, their capabilities are quite sufficient for all school needs and for teaching.

It should also be noted, that Open-Source Unix-based systems provide much better security, than MS Windows, due to better separation of administrative and user accounts and due to the sophisticated setup of read/write/execute file permissions.

 

So how did the school build its computer network and Internet connection?

 

First of all they chose the first variant - "Do it yourself". Obviously, the idea of hiring professionals seemed too expensive, and they decided that their expertise is quite adequate for the network/Internet job.

Then they went shopping for hardware. Here some bad compromises were made. First, there are only 8 computers in the network, for a class of 15-16 students it means that students are jammed in pairs around 1 computer. Actually the situation is even worse, because 1 of these 8 computers is actually the system console, the working place of system administrator, and it is inaccessible for students.

Second, the configuration of computers is short of being adequate. There is only 256 Mb of memory in each of the computers, twice as little as is needed for normal performance of MS Windows, the monitors are of old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) type with heavy distortions and poor color rendition, but most important of all, none of the computers has a CD-ROM drive. Thus it happens, that when teachers bring an educational CD to the computer room in hope of reading it and using some of the educational content from the CD, they are unable to do so, because they don't have a CD-ROM drive to insert their CD. In addition, there is no printer connected to this network.

I will not go into speculations about why such a choice was made for computer configuration. Apparently these computers were all bought at some liquidation sale, where a certain company sold its old computers after upgrading their network to new ones. Regrettably, later no attempt was made to upgrade the configuration - install additional memory, install CD-ROM drives, buy better monitors, etc.

However, most important and most inadmissible compromises were made in the area of software. The school decided to install MS Windows operating system, but decided not to spend any money. Practically this means, that all software in the school network is pirated, of the type that is sold for 30000 Rup a disk at street corners. This software has no valid serial numbers, no manufacturer's support, updates to this software are not available, and different parts like device drivers and Office programs do not work well together. This software has no virus protection, no protection against spy programs and advertising programs, and it spreads all this filthy stuff through USB ports, where students are connecting their laptops. I even don't want to think about possible consequences, if this issue of pirated MS software will ever come to the attention of the Intellectual Property Protection Department...

Now let's turn first to network connections and then to the Internet connection.

The internal network functions quite well - the 100 Mbit/sec cards can work at full speed, and the star-like configuration of the network is quite good for the intended purposes. However, when it comes to the external connection, things again slip into the area of inadmissible compromises.

It is well known, that all Internet providers are different. Some are more expensive than others, and usually there is a reason why people prefer to pay a higher price for a reputable Internet provider, rather than go with a cheap one. The main differences are speed and security.

If one uses the services of an Internet provider, it is necessary to keep in mind that every system has a certain rate of information exchange with the outside world. Without going into much technical details, it is clear, that if too many requests for communication are presented at the same time at the system ports, these requests will be jammed, and some of them will be denied. In this case you will see on your screen a message like "Internet Explorer cannot display the Web page - Read Timeout". This simply means that the request was denied due to the system overload, and it is exactly what happens, when 7 computers try to connect to Internet at once through an inadequate connection channel. In particular numbers for the school system it reads like following:

Internal network speed: 100 000 000 bits/sec (100 Mbit/sec)

External connection speed: 20 000 bits/sec  (20 Kbit/sec) or 50 000 times slower than internal speed.

No wonder that this channel is always jammed, it just does not have enough throughput capacity!

Last, but not least, cheap providers usually don't have adequate security protection measures in their equipment, all viruses and spy programs which are held and disinfected at expensive provider's site, go freely into the communication channel, then into internal network and then to the client computers. Removing them is usually a very tedious and expensive job, best done by professional security experts.

As the situation looks now, the Internet connection at school is not only unusable, it is simply dangerous. I had already a bad experience connecting my SONY digital camera to one of these computers through the USB port and getting a virus, which prevents me now from using this memory chip. Fortunately, the defect is localized to only one memory chip, all other chips and the camera itself are in good condition. Really, the cheap internet can be VERY expensive...

Passports, Consulates, etc.


           This is a very interesting part of the story, here we come to the person, who is the actual manager of the school affairs - let me introduce you to Mrs. Triana, who does all the hiring and firing, and with whom teachers have the never ending fight. Mrs. Triana is the wife of Mr. Johan Salim, who is formally the boss of the SUB, but in fact is nothing more, than a figurehead. I don't know (and really don't care), what is her formal position in the school, but it became clear very fast, that in order to solve each question, however small and insignificant, one must go to Mrs. Triana. All school staff would tell you, that without a direct command from Mrs. Triana they could not make even a simplest decision, such as purchasing a bottle of ink for the whiteboard markers, a rim of paper for the printer, or a piece of soap for the toilet (as of now, there is not a piece of soap in any of the school toilets). However, Mrs. Triana created some problems for the school, which were much more important, and which resulted in a real fight between her and foreign teachers.

          Remember, that when foreign teachers first came to the school, all of them had only simple visitor's visas, which were not good for employment and for extended stay in the country. So it was natural, that the school administration collected their passports and submitted applications for their work visas to the Immigration Authority of Indonesia. This process took about 2 months, and finally on September 7, 2007, all 5 foreign teachers went to Penang, Malaysia, where the 12-month visas with working permits were stamped into their passports. On the way back to Medan all passports were collected back by the school, and teachers did not see them again.

          This situation did not seem natural, and teachers started asking the office personnel, when they will receive their passports back. I was among the first ones to ask, because I needed the passport to do some money transactions, and I wanted to go to Australia during the Idul Fitri holiday, which I could not do without the passport. Office people told me "In 3 days", "In 2 days", "Next week", and so on, until I started a scandal, and they finally told me, that only Mrs. Triana can give me my passport back. This time I got really angry and told them, that I will call the American Consulate and the "Medan Business" newspaper, if I will not receive back my passport here and now. Then finally they called Mrs. Triana and in low voices told me, that she was very angry, and that she will come to the school in about 40 minutes.

          She really came 1 hour later and immediately started screaming and yelling like a cat, whose tail was jammed by the door. Her main point of displeasure was, that this phone call interrupted her breakfast, and she rushed to the school, instead of enjoying the meal. Her anger was directed mainly against the office people, I cannot quote here the exact words, because she was shouting in Indonesian, but after her angry speech I saw how one girl started crying. Then she asked me in the same angry voice, what is the reason for me to disrupt her breakfast.

          First I asked her, if she has calmed down, and if she was ready to discuss business, or she would prefer to shout a little more, in which case I can wait. Then, after her assurances, that she is "always" ready to discuss business, I started with the passport question.  The question was, will I get my passport back, or I should call the American Consulate and ask them for help.

          Probably she did not want the intervention from the Consulate, so the problem was solved in my favor, she ordered Jenny from the office to come to her in the afternoon and get my passport. Then she asked me, if there are any other problems.

           "Yes, - I replied - the situation in teachers' house is critical, and something must be done really quickly"

           "So what are the problems in the house, and why you did not tell about them before?"

           "I was telling systematically about these problems for the last month and half.
          There are not enough rooms for all teachers - 2 Filippino teachers are jammed in one room.
          There is no air-conditioning in the house.
          Roofs are leaking - after each good rain I collect 3-5 liters of water in my room, and the kitchen is all flooded.
         There are no tables in teachers' rooms, no table lamps and only 2 wardrobes for 3 rooms. Ms. Zhao does not have a wardrobe.

Why are you pretending, that you never heard about these problems, I reported them to the office several times."

    Then she started yelling again:

    "I am a professional! I know how to handle people relations! I need no protectors and champions, you speak for yourself, and I don't need anybody to speak for Filippino pigs! I have special arrangement about Filippinos, they must be happy to have these conditions! I can put as many of them in one room as I wish!..."

    My comment was:

    "Well, Madam, in this case I think it will be good to bring this story to "Medan Business" newspaper. They positively love stories like this, about special arrangement for Filippinos. It smells so nicely of national discrimination..."

    She understood, that she has taken it over the limit, and shut down. Actually she did not say anything more, probably being not sure, that some other stupidities will not slip out from her tongue. For me, all ended well - I got my passport, and very soon, in a matter of 1 week, 2 air-conditioners were installed in the house, one of them in the room with 2 Filippinas, the other one in my room. The roof was also fixed, now it is not leaking any more.

    Ms. Zhao also got something out of this fight - she received finally a wardrobe, so she can now keep her clothes hanged and out of dust. The air-conditioner in her room still is absent (maybe until next big fight?).

    However, it became clear very soon, that Mrs. Triana had learnt very little from these events.

    There is one more foreign teacher in SUB - a nice German girl Ms. Anita Kreuzer, she teaches English and Music in both primary and secondary school. Needless to say, that her passport was also held by Mrs. Triana, and that the latter refused to give this passport back to Anita.

    Anita asked for her passport once, twice, then said that she will call the German Consulate. But Anita is just a 20-year old German girl, not a 69-year old Ph.D. from America, so Mrs. Triana decided, that she can behave towards Anita without any ceremonies. "Go ahead and call your consulate" - was the answer. Anita followed the advice and promptly informed her consulate about the situation.

    Next day the German Consul called Mrs. Triana and had a conversation with her. Nobody knows exactly, what did the German Consul tell to Mrs. Triana, but on the next day not only Anita received her passport back, but also all other foreign teachers were told, that they can get their passports back at any time they want.

    It is appropriate to tell here, that all 3 members of the staff, who initially brought me from the airport to the school, had resigned and left the school. Actually Rico and Alfred left in September, before these events (my fight with Mrs. Triana happened in October), and Jenny resigned in early November, when Mrs. Triana accused her of mishandling the situations with passports, ink and work time during the National Holidays (more of that later). I liked all three of them, they were helpful, intelligent and cooperative young people. All three named Mrs. Triana as the reason for their resignation.

 3 drops of ink per teacher per day!

 
    Up to a certain moment everything was very simple. Each teacher had in his/her posession 2-3 whiteboard markers, and in order to refill these markers, it was sufficient to go to the principal's office, to take the bottle with ink from the shelf, refill the marker, and put the bottle back on the shelf. When the bottle was empty, it was placed into a box with empty bottles, and the next one was taken from a box with full bottles.

    Then things started getting more difficult.

    First, the box with full bottles and the current refill bottle were moved from the shelf into the drawer of "Academic Supervisor" - at that moment it was Jenny. In order to refill the marker, teachers now were forced to locate Jenny and to ask her for help. But actually that was not a big deal - Jenny was always at school, she was very helpful, and she herself felt the inconvenience of the situation. She said directly, that she would never think herself of hiding the ink, that this was simply an additional work for her, but she could not change anything, because this was a direct order from Mrs. Triana. Jenny was ordered to keep all ink supplies under lock and key, and teachers should not have any direct access to ink. Nobody cared, as long as the ink was available, either directly, or through Jenny.

    However, the plans of Mrs. Triana were far more ambitious. She decided to ration the ink, and one day teachers found out, that the staff had imposed severe limitations - 3 drops of ink per teacher per day!

    Practically this meant full termination of teaching activity. For Chinese-Mandarin teacher 3 drops of ink are equivalent to 8-10 hieroglyphs written on the board, same is true for English and Indonesian teachers, for Mathematics this is equivalent to one formula with 6-8 characters, to say nothing about Art, Biology or Chemistry.

    I decided to talk directly to Mrs. Triana and clear out the situation.

    Disregarding the meek staff clerks, who tried to tell me that "Mrs. Triana is very busy, she does not want to be disturbed", I opened the door of the couple's office, went inside and looked around. Yes, there was really a visitor talking to Mrs. Triana, a man whom I never have seen at school neither before, nor after that day. I took a chair, nodded to Mrs. Triana, and took a seat, showing that I am ready to wait, until she finishes her business.

    The business took not long - 15 to 20 minutes - then I was able to start the conversation.

     "Mrs. Triana, please explain me, how was the limit of ink per teacher per day calculated, were there any tries, any estimations to how big this limit should be? The current limit of 3 drops is absolutely insufficient, and it can bring the school to a real disaster."

     "What are you talking about? - was the reply. - Who told you about the limit?"

     "Not only told, but actually the office gives teachers these 3 drops per day, and they all say, that it is done on your direct order."

     Mrs. Triana at this moment was a classical picture of sincere noble indignation...

     "This is outrageous! These clerks are obviously trying to ruin my reputation! I have NEVER given an order of anything like 3 drops! You see, how it is impossible to trust people - they do these stupid humiliating things, and then say that it is all done on my order! Teacher can ask ANY student to go to the office and refill the marker, it is a grave misdeneanor for office worker to let the student go back with empty marker!"

     I would have believed her, if only I wouldn't know...

     "Mrs. Triana, right before my visit to you Ms. Anita had an English lesson in S-2. Her marker ran out of ink, so she sent one of the students to the office to refill the marker. The student received no ink, because office people told him that Ms. Anita already had received her 3 drops of ink for today, and by the order from Mrs Triana she is not entitled for any more ink.

    When the student came back, he explained the situation in loud voice, so all the class heard him and the other students started laughing. Some of them even proposed to pool their pocket money and to buy some ink for teachers, if Mrs Triana is out of money.

    What do you think, will this story come to the parents, and what will be their reaction?"


     There was a moment of silence...kind of like the silence during the chess play, when one merrily grabs the figure, and right after the next move starts understanding the desastrous consequences.

 
    "Well, ink is no big deal, we will somehow find the right solution for this issue...I already introduced such system in Preston, there it worked, but now I understand, that teaching requirements in Preston and here are different..."

     Hop...hop...hop... First she says that she never has given such an order, a minute later she admits that she already introduced such system in Preston...Really, my tongue is my worst enemy!

     A week later Jenny left, after being accused of mishandling the situations with ink and with passports. Now instead of Jenny we have 3 new "Academic Supervisors" - I had already mentioned them and shall write in more detail later. The situation with ink has somehow improved, but still there are interruptions and shortages of supply.

     The most far-reaching consequence of these events for Mrs. Triana is the fact, that parents really are now aware about the outrageous events at the school, and they start asking a simple question:

"The school cannot supply teachers with ink! Where is our money?"

 

 

National Principal, Academic Supervisors, etc


     First I wanted to write here a detailed story, then decided against it.

     Mrs Triana had brought to the school several remarkable people:

     Mr. Johannes, who has now the position of "National Principal". He was introduced to teachers as a teacher of Mathematics, but had not taught in this school even a single lesson. He practically does not speak English, and nobody can understand, why an International English-speaking school needs a non-English-speaking Principal.

     His only remarkable deed was to take S-1 student Tony to the Physics Olympic Competition of Medan, where Tony got the 18-th place out of 21 participants. That was to be expected, because nobody did train or otherwise prepare Tony to a competition like this. The shameful result is the correct reflection of the Principal's arrogance - he hoped without problems to get praise and honors for himself and for school, but actually he got what he deserved.

    What use is Mr. Johannes for Mrs. Triana - only God knows, but essentially it is her own business.

 

    Three new "Academic Supervisors"  - one for the primary classes, another one for the secondary classes, and the third one to supervise 2 previous ones - this is the only one, who has access to the bosses.

    Especially outrageous this new hire looks at the moment, when the school has no Nurse and no Technicians to work in the Physics and Chemistry Laboratories.

    All 3 girls speak relatively good English, but not a single one of them ever went into the classroom - they consider themselves to be a "higher echelon", who will command the teachers, but not do the actual teaching work. Even when a teacher falls sick, not a single of these "Supervisors" replaces the teacher, they just let the P-4 and P-5 students spend hours without the teacher, only not to make their hands dirty.

    At the moment of this writing, already a real scandal occurred due to arrogance of the "Superior" of the 3. However, I don't have the direct permission of teacher Harris to write about the details of the story. Here I shall only note that this "Superior" Ms. Shelly denied her own words in the office of Mr. Johan Salim, despite the fact, that her threats and expressions were overheard by several Secondary-2 students, who later told me all details. Why does the Management need a shameless liar in the position of "Academic Supervisor", I simply don't know.

Laptops, Monsters and Christianity


     There is one particular topic, which I was at first reluctant to discuss, but then convinced myself, that parents must know about the situation. Probably, the problem is typical not only for SUB, but also for some other schools, but here, at SUB, it has reached really monstrous proportions. Especially strange is the fact, that all this happens in a school, which calls itself "Christian", whatever this word can mean practically.

    The topic in question is LAPTOP COMPUTERS.

    There is no lack in emotional words about modern high technologies, about how computers will help children learn easily the most complicated subjects, how the young generations will be prepared to enter the modern world, equipped with high skills and deep knowledge of every possible science and industry. It was said, that children will learn straight from kindergarten the internal structure of computers, that Internet access will help them to find quickly all necessary information, etc, etc...

    However, the reality is quite different, almost to the opposite.

    There is no need to explain that laptop computers inside the school are used almost exclusively for gaming, which occupies 99% of the laptop working time. Students play different active games - they fight with monsters, they defend Earth against alien invaders, they race cars, planes and other shooting and screaming machinery, they crawl in the caves in search of diamonds or win championships in space adventures. All this games have very bright graphics, they are accompanied by sounds, and the imagination of an 11-15 year old child is completely captured by the excitement of the game.

    But when the break ends, and the student must return to the real world for a lesson, some interesting things happen.

    First, the student is angry, because the gaming excitement was interrupted for the sake of a dull boring lesson. Naturally, this anger turns towards the teacher. The brain and the soul of the student are still fully there, in the game, and the student is absolutely incapable to think about any information related to the lesson. This mental state lasts from 10 to 30 minutes, during which the student can only wish, that this bastard teacher would go away for as long and for as far as possible, and he will again start the game and go into the world of fights, alien spaceships or diamond collection in the caves. It is clear without further explanations, that no material from the lesson can find its way into the student's mind, so for the purposes of the learning this student is lost, even if he sits quietly and makes no noise. This student is simply not in the classroom, he is absent.

    Second, there is another aspect, which must be especially alarming for a school, which calls itself "Christian" (However, the devout believing Christians don't even want to admit, that the problem exists).

    Gaming heroes - monsters, sorcerers, commando champions, space invaders and others - actively compete with Christian heroes from the Bible. In most cases this is a one-way fight, the gaming heroes have so many advantages, that Christian heroes don't have any real chance to remain in the child's mind. All Christian moralization is quickly replaced by shooting, fighting, low grade sorcery, space adventures and other mental junk. As a matter of fact, these computer games and their heroes become the child's RELIGION, and this is understandable, it only takes to compare all this colorful graphics, sounds and action against the dull texts of the Bible, written about boring people, who tell boring speeches in an archaic language. Sure, powerful invaders from Aldebaran star and its 9 planets are more colorful, attractive and understandable, they are the real Gods and Angels, much better than those from the old rotten Bible.

    Position of SUB management in this question puzzled me at first, but later it became clear, that the situation with laptops was consciously and intentionally created, in order to prevent the children from being educated, under the pretense of progress and high technology.

    So, dear parents, if you have not yet completely lost your senses, think about these aspects of laptop madness and decide, which way do you want your children to go.

                      
Appendix  
Once Mr MacDonald, the owner
of McDonald's fast-food chain, was asked:
"How would you define the nature of your business?"
MacDonald answered: "Everybody believes
that I am in the restaurant business,
but it is wrong - I am in the Real Estate business!!"


Property Speculators


    The above quotation from MacDonald is very appropriate for the SUB situation. Remember that MacDonald bought the lots for his restaurants predominantly in the areas of rapid development, where the land could rise in price 5-10 times in 5 years, and thereafter sold to more expensive restaurants and to other businesses the lots, the parking spaces, the buildings and sometimes even the workers from McDonald's.

    Now substitute "Triana" for "MacDonald", "school" for "restaurant", "SUB National Plus" for "McDonald's Fast Food chain", and you will get a phrase, which sounds quite authentic and fully describes the situation:

Once Mrs Triana, the owner
of SUB National Plus, was asked:
"How would you define the nature of your business?"
Mrs Triana answered: "Everybody believes
that I am in the school business,
but it is wrong - I am in the Real Estate business!!"


    Actually Mrs Triana never said this exact phrase; on the contrary, she will use all her eloquence in order to convince everybody that she is in the school business, that all her efforts have the goal of improving the school and providing benefits for students and parents. As always, it is wise to disregard the words and pay attention to real deeds, then the real interests and intentions can be figured out without big mental effort. Everything falls into place, and even bizarre events, which seemed illogical, fall neatly into the picture.

    Remember the case of 3 drops per teacher? There was a mentioning of Preston. where Mrs Triana already had introduced the system of ink rationing. So what is this "Preston", and why was it possible to ration the ink supply there?

    The chain of universities under the brand name "Preston" was created in the middle of 1980-s by a team of entrepreneurs from Pakistan. Now this chain has "Preston Universities" in many Asian and African countries - a simple Google or Yahoo web search provides dozens of links to sites in many countries. There are also some links to sites in the USA, this detail deserves some further explanation.

    Obviously, it is prestigious for any university in the world to have close cooperation and recognition of some university in the USA. In case of Preston the goal was even more ambitious - by opening a "Preston University" on American soil it was possible to make an impression, that all the Preston chain originates from the USA, that "Preston" is an American brand name and that all numerous "Preston Universities" are authorised outlets of an American educational institution.

    Initially Preston started operations in the state of Wyoming and tried to get there the accreditation. However, the authorities of Wyoming denied this accreditation request, due to low substandard quality of education. So in March 2007 Preston moved its operations to the state of Alabama, where local authorities are far more tolerant to educational sloppiness and lack of quality. In fact, Alabama is one of the infamous "Black Belt" states, where the majority of population is of AfroAmerican origin, where racism flourishes in its inverted mode of "Black Supremacy", where the quality of education is notoriously low, and where a "Degree Mill" like Preston has the best chances to operate without hindrance.

(Following is a quote from Preston-Alabama web site. They were obliged to make this information public, in order to avoid bad legal consequences for deception of customers)
______________________________________________________________

Accreditation Status

Preston University is dedicated to delivery of the highest quality educational experience to each of its enrolled students around the world. However, Preston is not accredited by a United States Department of Education recognized accrediting body...

...Because Preston University is not accredited by a post-secondary school association, many U.S. schools may not immediately accept Preston credits or degrees for transfer into their programs...

_______________________________________________________________________

    To put it frankly, all "Preston Universities" were always known to be very substandard low grade institutions, sometimes nicknamed "Degree Mills", sometimes "Diploma Printshops". Not surprisingly, this was the very type of business where Mr. Johan and Mrs Triana found themselves comfortable.

    Running a business is most conveniently done through a corporation or a foundation. This is exactly the case here - Unggulan Educational Foundation was created for this purpose, this Foundation provides legal and organizational shield, which conceals the roles of these 2 individuals and gives some respectable appearance to everything done by the Foundation. Foundation hires and fires the staff, collects the tuition money, purchases supplies, sets up the schedules, equips the laboratories, etc. However, the most important duty of the foundation is acquisition of land and buildings for educational institutions which operate under the auspices of the Foundation.

    Actually
Mr. Johan and Mrs Triana are the owners of the Foundation, it is just much more convenient to negotiate various deals from the position of the Educational Foundation, than to negotiate these deals from the position of private entrepreneurs. Especially  this is true in case of deals, involving land and buildings - Educational Foundation will receive in these cases quite a lot of privileges, starting from favorable locations of the property, and up to substantial discounts.

    I will only briefly touch here the business model of Preston University - it is a clear case "Diploma for Money". Preston admits students, who have absolutely no chances to graduate anywhere else. The price of diploma is negotiable - the dumber the student, the steeper the price. Obviously, this business model does not suppose any meaningful teaching, this is why it was possible to impose the "3-drop-rule" in Preston. This business model proved to be quite successful, and the appetite of the owners started to heat up...

    The main business objective behind SUB is not education - it is property speculation. Educational Foundation had purchased from local City Administration some territory with buildings. The region of the city, where this territory is located, is the region of rapid development, so the price of this territory is certain to rise very quickly. Owners of the Foundation can make this appreciation even more efficient, if they repair the buildings, or build some new ones on the territory. It is here that everything finds its logical explanation, all events in SUB just fall in place, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Things and events, which cannot be explained from the point of education, are perfectly natural from the point of speculation.

    In order to increase the value of the property, the owner must invest some money. Rather than investing their own money,
Mr. Johan and Mrs Triana decided to invest the parents' money, again following the time-proven Preston business model - "School Certificate for Money". To do this, Mr. Johan and Mrs Triana admit to the school (mainly to S-4) such students, who have absolutely no chances to graduate anywhere else. The price of certificate is negotiable - the dumber the student, the steeper the price.

    Obviously, this approach doesn't suppose any meaningful teaching, this explains absense of maps, nonexistent laboratories, unusable Internet - all this items do not increase the value of the property.

   
On the contrary, indoor football facility, swimming pool, basketball court increase the value of the property, this explains why the swimming pool is being built, and the 3-drop-of-ink restriction is still firmly in place. Spending money for the swimming pool is efficient, this money will bring a sizeable profit, whence money spent for ink 
will produce no profit, it can be just considered wasted.

    One more important detail must be pointed out. In order to maximize the parents' fees, it was necessary to present the school as something really special and elitarian. This is why SUB was advertised as "Total English Speaking Environment", "International", National Plus", this is why it was decided to hire several foreign teachers. And actually, all this ruse worked to some extent - many parents were deceived by bright presentations and unlimited promises.

    Why is the school called "Christian"? In a country, which is predominantly Muslim, this is an interesting question. The answer is two-fold:
    First, finding a foreign teacher for a Christian school is an order of magnitude simpler, than finding a teacher for a Muslim school. Especially true it is now, after the death sentence in Sudan for a British teacher, who gave the name "Muhammad" to a teddy bear.
    Second, many wealthy Chinese and Indonesian families try to distance themselves from Muslim religion. They may have different reasons to do this, but the fact is statistically proven.

    The final business model of
Mr. Johan and Mrs Triana looks like following:
    Obedient teachers in SUB pretend to teach something to a bunch of lazy uneducatable children, then all these children get passing grades in the fake examinations. Department of Education receives all properly written papers, regardless of the real examination results, and all children get Secondary school Certificates. Parents' money are invested into the buildings to increase the market value of the property, and all children are offered a place in Preston University. In fact, for many of SUB "graduates" this would be the only option, because they would have absolutely zero chance of passing the admission exams to any other institution.

    Now everything falls in place. 3-drop-per-teacher rule is natural, because no teaching is supposed to take place, absence of laboratories is also natural by the same reason, keeping teachers' passports under lock and key is just a way to assure their obedience, laptop computers and unlimited gaming help in distracting the attention of students and in making the students happy and inobservant. Non-English-Speaking "National Principal" is in fact an experienced Property Speculator, very useful and appropriate in this business.

        Here I end my notes. Maybe, I will add here a note or two, but for now I think that here I said enough to give you a clear idea about the school, its management and its ideology. 1