June 10, 2006

in the picture

The results of final secondary school exams are out, and as always they make for a delicious read. It is not only about catching a glimpse of those smart, indomitable eyes surrounded by their proud parents and siblings. It is beyond one’s own partiality toward the public school, even with its glaring failings, as the best embodiment of what a nation’s texture, character and quest for achievement is all about.

It has to do with the fact that it is one of those rare occasions to see pictures of ordinary hard working Bahraini families on the pages of the morning paper. Your constitution may affirm that the family is the bedrock and foundation of society, but don’t expect to see translation of that in the day to day coverage of your paper (unless you count that one and only family). True, these proud families are still far from being front and centre - they are relegated to the pages of a special supplement, but at least they are for once given some space. For once, they are given the opportunity, to appear in person and in picture, and to shine in the full glory of captivating Bahraini warmth, as they accompany their distinguished sons and daughters to a newspaper near them. Although, judging by now a well-established trend, it is often daughters and occasional- sons.

What makes these photos even more endearing is the fact that the whole family is there. Umm el-3eyal is finally there. Mothers, doting, sacrificing mothers are finally making it to the full picture, as they sandwich with pride, alongside their husbands, the fruits of their shared toil and patience, the top achievement of daughters and sons. To be sure, there still is a fair share of those of “we don’t have wives that appear in newspapers” school, but even there, the father is shown doting on his smart looking and thinking daughter.

Even the roll of the graduates names has its own interesting angle, as it represents a good snapshot of a nation’s mood some 18 years earlier. The boys names are back to more traditional fold (gone are the Sameers of the sixties and seventies). But the colour in choosing daughters names remains in vogue. Of the top five girls, there are two Marwah, one Haneen and a fourth Tamadhur. Sarah is not far behind. There also figures a Sinaa, and a San3aa. On the boys’ side, the award for the poetic name goes to a young fellow named Nawras, who also happens to have Al-Matar as a last name.

Activists have also done very well, despite their troubles. A top girl in her chosen field was the daughter of a habitué of political circles. The daughter of an ex-head of a banned political department scored 95%, while the daughter of a current head of a detainees’ rights committee managed to score 92% despite the smear campaign against her father.

But all is not a cause for celebration in the announced results. This year saw 5422 graduates. Of these, there is one lone male student from the ruling family (and three female students). That is less than the statistical margin of error. If ever there were a plan for a complete disengagement between the ruler and the ruled, its success couldn’t be more phenomenal.

To end on a constructive criticism note, may I suggest to the relevant authorities to name a top award, called the Charter Scholarship (Minhat al-Meethaq), that goes to the student/s that score 98.4%. (This year’s nominees are four: Ahmed, Hanaan, Ameenah and Kareemah. If money is an object, heavens forbid, then the winner can be decided based on loyalty, as per usual). Ideally, this scholarship should include an overgenerous coverage of all the needs, wishes and indulgences of the student, for a full, one calendar year.