I resigned as manager of TBI Kelapa Gading on February 29th, 2012, after a week in which the owners had lied to me many times and back-flipped on half a dozen promises (especially about making TBI Kelapa Gading finances more transparent). This was the culmination of a long struggle to get them to “go straight” and register the company as a proper, tax-paying PT. They had broken so many promises and lied so many times that I was absolutely furious with them. I had finally seen that they were yet another pair of TBI liars who never intended to do more than string me along.
A couple of days later I heard from the teachers there that Nunu (Nugraha Pratama) had been appointed school manager. When I told C****** he burst out laughing at me and said, “That’s hilarious!”
I was a little surprised and asked C*******, “Why do you say that?”
“Well“, said C*******, “If you ever wanted revenge against those owners, you couldn’t have wished for better news. You wouldn’t appoint Nunu school manager unless you wanted to send the business bankrupt.”
I thought about it for a moment and saw that, as usual, C*****’s reading of character was spot on. Appointing Nunu as school manager was like appointing a saboteur into the role- though it would be his “relaxed” work ethic rather than any actual malice which would cause problems. The decision had all the makings of a farce from Day One. And, as usual, C******’s judgment has proven far more prescient than any of the TBI Mafia bigwigs. But why did C****** make that correct call? What was it about Nunu that all but guaranteed another TBI failure. Let’s start with a look at his history and character.
Nugraha Pratama’s “Work” History
Nugraha (Nunu hereafter- his preferred name) was born into privilege. He was the son of a well-connected Indonesian in the world of diplomacy. Nunu had completed all his 6 years of high school in New Zealand, where his father had been posted. Nunu liked still liked the All Blacks (a rugby team) and spoke about them more than any other aspect of NZ. He sometimes sported one of their jerseys to work. Because of his schooling in New Zealand, Nunu’s English was very close to Native Speaker fluency and he gained a very good score on the diagnostic test when he tested for TBI.
While his English fluency was a strength, there were serious question marks over the rest of his background. He had tried to follow in his father’s footsteps but a career in the diplomatic service had spluttered out. He had been posted to the Ukraine by Indonesia for 2 years. He had hated the country, hadn’t learned to speak Ukranian and was too terrified of the streets of Kiev to go outside the embassy compunds. He told me that Kiev was full of Neo-Nazi thugs who might have attacked him. He had told cameron the same thing- he had barely gone outside for 2 years in the Ukraine because he was too scared of Nazis. Too scared to go out, he had been miserable there and had given up the world of diplomacy, returning to Indonesia where his wealthy family supported him by and large, though he did manage a few hours per week at LIA Kelapa Gading and then, finally, TBI Kuningan.
Anyway, the Ukraine clearly wasn’t for everyone. How had he fared at TBI Kuningan? There were problems. Though his English was fluent, he had no training in education at all. He had no CELTA or even the one week course called the GITE which TBI does. This needn’t have been fatal as an English teacher (TBI Policy wise), but as a manager not having a TEFL certificate was against TBI policy. (More on this later). How was his work ethic at Kuningan? Cameron told me that every time he had asked the simple question, “How are you?”, Nunu had launched in a detailed description of his cough, his cold or how little sleep he had been having since his baby was born. I can confirm the same. In the time Nunu worked for me at TBI Kelapa Gading he routinely and monotonously complained of having “the sniffles” almost every time I asked him how he was. In the end, I stopped asking. I’m not a doctor, so I am not qualified to say whether he was a hypochondriac. But if he wasn’t, he had terrible health for a young man, and I have never known someone to be more often afflicted with colds, coughs, the flu and the sniffles than Nunu.
There was one telling difference however. When he was at TBI Kuningan he was employed as a casual and didn’t get any sick leave, so he never had time off. He would complain of being sick but he wouldn’t miss out on his pay. Once he started full-time at Kelapa Gading (more on this later), he used up his annual sick leave (6 days) within the first 2 months. He then started using his holiday leave entitlements for cases of “the sniffles” by his 3rd month. In his first 3 months at Kelapa Gading he had 9 sick days off work. I was already getting to the point where I thought it was a mistake to hire him as teacher, because he was so unreliable and I was endlessly having to drop my own work to cover his classes or organise cover from someone else. He stayed working at TBI Kuningan on Saturdays during this period (on casual rates) and he didn’t have a single Saturday off during this time. He was sick enough (according to him) to take 9 days off from Kelapa Gading but during that period he never once had a sick day at the school where he would lose money for staying away. Of course all of this might have been just a coincedence but when you are relying on someone as a manager, you hope “the sniffles” won’t in an acute record of absenteeism, and it did in Nunu’s case. The fact that his “sniffles” never seemed to land on a casual pay day was a big coincidence which only increased my / our concerns about his attitude and reliability.
None of this means that Nunu was a bad guy. He was rather affable all in all and the other teachers liked him. Friendly and outgoing, he was liked by the teachers and most of his students. There were some complaints that he was boring and he rarely seemed to do lesson prep, but he was judged “good enough” by most of his students. Yet as his manager, I had serious concerns over his record of absenteeism and his half-hearted attitude towards work and lesson prep. I had originally hoped to make him ACTEL after the current expat ACTEL left (if he agreed to do the CELTA) because the owner was starting to say “expats are too expensive” etc., but then he told me he couldn’t afford the CELTA, then he kept having time off work, and I got to the point where I wished I had employed someone else, even as a teacher.
If anyone had asked me (Ashley say or the shoot-himself-in-the-foot school owner, Pauwsan Sutanto) I would have told them that he was struggling even to do his job as a part-time teacher. The idea that he was cut out for management was, as C***** realized, completely ridiculous. Yet Platts had lobbied the owners to employ him in that role without even interviewing him. Due diligence? You have to be joking! Platts had appointed numerous failed managers in the past, most notably Chris Needham, who had ended up being fired in disgrace as manager of 3 schools after less than a year in the role. Needham had been hand-picked and “mentored” by Platts and had crashed and burned in a spectacular fashion. More on Nunu and Ashley tomorrow.