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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
Library, Laboratories, Maps, etc.
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 teacherï¿½s 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Now let us turn
to the particular system - the SUB network and Internet connection.
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:
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
with RW capability.
Network card (2 cards for central server)
4 USB ports and
1-2 FireWire ports
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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...
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
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
"I was telling systematically about these problems for the last month
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."
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!..."
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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.
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:
cannot supply teachers with ink! Where is our money?"
Principal, Academic Supervisors, etc
First I wanted to write here a detailed story, then decided
Mrs Triana had brought to the school several remarkable people:
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
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.
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
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
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.
Once Mr MacDonald,
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!!"
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"
"restaurant", "SUB National Plus" for "McDonald's Fast Food chain", and
you will get a phrase, which sounds quite authentic and fully describes
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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.
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
produce no profit,
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.
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
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.