Chapter 8 – Bye de byes Holland

Still dependent on a wheelchair for most of the day, I was positively sure that I never wanted to go to a special school again. In fact I didn’t want to have any contact what so ever with any other disabled people anymore. This unfortunate shying away from people afflicted by physical disability I keep, to some extent, to this day. So nearing the end of the 6th and last class of the elementary school, I had to decide where to go next. There was never any question about me having a good education and although never verbally expressed I was expected to go to a university or to follow some kind of higher education after my schooling.

In Holland the secondary school is divided roughly into three major branches; the Mavo, Havo and WVO. A pupil is put into one of these branches according to his or her ability. MAVO being the lowest, and lasting only 4 years. With a MAVO diploma there is not much the person can do further, apart from find menial work or being admitted to HAVO. HAVO is higher than MAVO, lasts 5 years and one can either continue in VWO or some higher education like a photography school. VWO is preparation for a university and is further divided into two streams; the Atheneum with emphases on art and language related subjects and the Gymnasium with emphasis on science. It was decided to send me to St. Adelbert College, in my home town. This was a Catholic school of sorts, but not strict in its religious stand. The first class of this school took all main streams and only would divide pupils after their first year.

At first my mother had to take me by car to and from the school where I still mainly moved around on the wheelchair. But  after a few months the big day came when I said I would go to school like all the other children on my own bike. The wheelchair was not necessary I declared for the short walks between the classes and biking didn’t tire me out as much as walking. My bike was now fitted with two crutch holders so taking these with me was no problem.  I cannot remember well the first day I biked to school, but I am sure that  I would have been excited and apprehensive, while my parent would have been worried.  I do remember the subsequent journeys, for I would enjoy the freedom and the feeling of being normal so much. It was relatively quiet at the time of morning that I went to school,    and the bike would softly and  smoothly glide over the tarmac, at a speed I could never manage walking. This feeling gave me a sense of freedom and power. However, I still biked slower than others and therefore when we had to, later, bike from one building of the school to another, on the other side of the village, I would always be late. This was accepted and I was even allowed to have one person accompany me. There were a lot of volunteers for this as almost every one wanted to be late for a class. Also somehow the journey between classes always took me longer than any other journeys!

My first year at St. Adelbert College, was a fairly happy one. I enjoyed the classes, well most  of them,  and I enjoyed the many little freedoms  I found as I realized that  I could do more and more thing myself and for myself.

I expected to be passed on to the VWO second class, as my grades were reasonably good throughout the year without me having to do too much work for them. The only subject that caused me any problems was Dutch, but I was not too worried for even that was improving and both I and my parents were confident that the teaching staff would take into account that Dutch was my third language. So it came as a great shock when my class‑teacher announced at the end of the year that I had been allowed to go to the second class of the HAVO. I sat in shock fighting back the tears not believing my ears. My parents could not believe it either and promptly queried the decision. They were told that my Dutch was not up to standard, when my parents pointed out that I was a foreigner and that my Dutch could not be expected to be as good as that of a native speaker but that it continued to improve, they repeated that Dutch was important and if I couldn’t write Dutch grammatically correct I  could not go to the VWO. Also they pointed out to my parents that being disabled I obviously get tired easily and that the VWO could prove too strenuous for me. My parents knowing very well that I never work harder than absolutely necessary asked if I could be allowed to go to the VWO for a test period and that if I couldn’t cope I could be put back to the HAVO. However the reply to that request was that I would be too disappointed if I had to go back and that it would be psychologically unhealthy for me. So there was nothing for me to do but for the time being go to the HAVO.

Apart from my chemistry classes and French I hated the HAVO, I didn’t like the atmosphere, where it seemed a crime if you got a good mark, or if you worked harder then others. Where the main sport used to   be to tease the teacher and disrupt the class as much as possible. Of the seven teachers I had for the seven subjects I took, two were ill most of the year with nervous related sicknesses, one, later, committed suicide by jumping in front of a train,  and one died. The three that survived ruled their class with an iron hand; my chemistry teacher, who although strict, had a good sense of humour and was always fair, my German teacher who caused many students to have nervous related illnesses in turn, and my Dutch teacher who was so nice and motherly that we all got on with her.

As  time  went  by  and   I was  finishing my third year  at the HAVO I was becoming extremely unhappy  at school. Though there was one redeeming factor in that year, and that was that my friend Ellis, joined me in St Adelbert. We spend a whole year in school together, which was great fun for us. But otherwise I felt that I was stuck in a pit with no obvious ways out. Something had to be done or I would end up working at a till in a village for the disabled somewhere in Holland.

I hated my school more and more. Therefore one day I asked whether I could not be sent to the school my brother went to in England, to finish his A levels. I too wanted to do A levels and go to University. And so a wheel was set in motion that yet again would change my life totally, a new chapter in yet another country.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. marcatmm
    Jan 09, 2012 @ 16:38:26

    What a disappointment that you were stuck in a system where you couldn’t really use all your brain! But great that you could spend a year with Ellis before leaving Holland.

    What’s the pic? Is it a statue? It’s beautiful but heart-wrenching.


  2. spamslitterature
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 09:21:24

    It’s tough to be a very bright kid in a class that’s not challenging or suited to her abilities. I’m glad you got out of it and that you got to see Ellis again.


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