When I Was A Boarding School Student (Part 1)
I had just completed my years of elementary school. Good grades helped me to be accepted at a favorite junior high school in my neighborhood and when all of the paperwork at the new school had been completed, I was very proud and happy . . . but not my parents. My parents wanted me to continue to a junior high boarding school in Southern Jakarta.
At that time boarding schools were not as popular as they are today in Indonesia. People sneered at parents who put their children into boarding schools and the assumption was that children in a boarding school were exiles who have made no achievements at all. Nonetheless, my parents’ had made their decision so I reluctantly tried to get through it.
The time for taking the selection test arrived and it turned out that going to a boarding school was very difficult. In addition to the common material I was being tested on the basics of Islam, Arabic, English, Math, recitation of the Holy Qur’an and prayers. Tests were conducted in written form and there were also interviews and medical tests. I was pessimistic about being able to pass the tests, primarily because I was not feeling well for the health test, but Allah (SWT) had made me pass the tests and I was accepted as a female student at the boarding school, alhamdulillah.
It was time for me to leave my parents, my sisters, and the warm atmosphere from my family and I remember that my mother did not stop crying at having to allow her first daughter to stay away from home. I remained cool and didn’t fully understand until later that no one would be accompanying me – that my family would not be there to encourage me to learn or to help me when I had problems.
The first month at the school was uncomfortable because in every activity I had to stand in line and share with my friends. Eating, showering, and wudlu – everything was done in queue and the ever-tolling bell signaling the beginning of each activity made me feel like a robot. We had to hasten to start every activity at the clang of the bell.
But after some time I began to adjust. I was taught to be disciplined, we prayed 5 times daily, we learned Arabic and English as it was the second language in our daily communication. Every Friday we learned how to thrive in the boarding school environment when instructed concerning how to clean the bathroom, closets, and our bedrooms. Each room held senior sisters who guided us in learning, but they were not able to replace my dear mother.
We also had to perform compulsory prayers in congregation in the mosque five times a day and we had to offer recitation of the Holy Qur’an after Maghrib and Fajr. We also listened to lectures after Maghrib and Fajr and studied at night after Isha’ prayers. There were also many activities at the school from scouts to lectures and extracurricular activities.