My worst parent - Kidnap fixation locked us all in

5th August 2011 at 01:00

I have to go a long way to find my worst parent: across the other side of the world - Malaysia. I was teaching in an international secondary school, where - for parents - money was not an issue. It was like being in a luxury prison cell.

But extreme wealth brings its own challenges, and the biggest of these appeared to be an extreme anxiety that this mega-affluence would attract the unwanted attention of criminals. Specifically, there was a fear of a child being kidnapped; not something that is top of the agenda the UK schools, but apparently a pervasive paranoia among the super-rich in Malaysia.

Thus the child of one such parent would be dropped off and picked up by a driver who was in all probability armed to the teeth. More than this, whenever we went on any visits "up country" there was often a "presence" watching over us in the form of a couple of bodyguards.

Now I guess this was understandable up to a point, but it wasn't a great vote of confidence in our own arrangements and it spooked some of the other pupils. It was certainly not a covert operation - they were in our faces all the time.

After a couple of such episodes I took it up with the headteacher, who point-blank refused to discuss it with the parent who was - surprise surprise - a generous benefactor.

I decided to raise the issue of the proximity of the bodyguards at source and asked them to be more discreet. It cut no ice. The only outcome was a severe reprimand from the head, who - acting on the subsequent complaint of the parent - more or less told me to mind my own business before I put the school out of theirs. I realised the omnipotence of parent power and left - a square peg in a round hole no more.

The writer teaches in a Hampshire comprehensive.

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