We've known about Togo for 3 days and we're already mired in controversy.
Here's the gyst. Obviously, we have been talking a lot to the folks currently at post about work, housing, schooling, etc to get a clearer picture of what's in store. Most of these people will be gone or walking out the door as we arrive, but for now, they are our eyes in Lome. We ask, they answer, we make our decisions.
There are 2 schooling options in Lome. The American International School and the British School.
AISL has combined classrooms. Not just combined, but currently there is a class that combines 3rd-8th grades. No typo. I'm serious. Our contact says that the facilities are subpar, the security is laughable, and the academics are not to standard. I guess you could say that there's something about the headmistress and the school in general that the Embassy folk don't like because a single person has their child attending (and after this summer, there are no U.S. Embassy children scheduled to attend there). There have been attempts to get AISL dissolved.
The British School is raved about, and that's where all the other children attend. Check it out on the British School of Lome website.
More details. A new Embassy compound is being built as we speak, in a different area of the city. Part of this is to build a more secure building. The other part is that the current location is almost entirely surrounded by the encroaching central market. The new digs should be opening around the time that we arrive.
The British School is right near the new compound. The American School is near the old compound.
We have been speaking with the housing office and there is a good possibility of a home right near the new Embassy, a few minutes from the British School and in a quiet safe neighborhood. It's said to be in the only neighborhood where the kids could safely ride their bikes around the streets. (Ian's minor issue... it has no pool. But then, very few of the houses have pools so it's not a real issue at all).
When we were bidding, switching the kids to a British School was a concern for me, but I've become convinced that before 6th grade, the systems are compatible and we can easily move back to the American System at the next post. The Director of Overseas School at the State Department tried to sell us hard on the post in Mauritius as a family post because while it has no American School to offer, there are several other options including a British School. We put it on our bid list in good faith.
So. Balancing school locations, considering where the Embassy is moving and where our potential housing is, and most importantly the curriculums available to us, we agreed to enroll the kids (we'll have 3 next fall and all 4 the following year enrolled), at BSL.
Now the controversy.
State won't pay to send our kids there. We -just- found this out, from the same person we were discussing school options with during our bidding process. The Director of Overseas Schools determined upon his visit last year that AISL was suitable and that no other options would be accommodated. AISL fees are at $5000 for K to 8th grade. BSL is E5800-8920 depending on grade. State will cover the cost of attending BSL up to the AISL fee, but after that it's out of pocket.
One child, not bad, definitely doable for an excellent education with plenty of afterschool options and in-class culture.
In the 2006-2007 school year, all four of our children will be attending school. We'd be paying close to $10,000 for them to attend.
Let me give you a comparison though. Here in Manila, there are hundreds of Embassy employees and kids to go with them. We have 3 major school options (British, Brent and ISM) with others available as well. To send Rebecca to ECLC costs over $14, 000. Katherine is more.
The issue as I see it, is that there are a handful of children in Lome associated with the Embassy. No one wants to go to AISL because there is a superior choice to be had. People are willing to pay out of pocket to go to BSL. AISL is floundering, and post updates we read from 2002 stated they didn't know if AISL would continue to exist into the 2002-2003 school year. Apparently it is muddling along but not with the enrollment of the Embassy children. This is not a matter of finances for State, so we can't understand why the refusal to add the British School as a viable alternative.
The balls are rolling. While the current folks at post have done what they can in their time, we hope to bring some new life to their argument.
Hopefully we can get the Director of Overseas Schools to change his mind.