The South Asian Inter-Scholastic Association (better known as SAISA) brings together 10 top international schools from across the Indian subcontinent region to compete against one another in sports, music and other non-core curricular activities. It is comparable to other regional networks of international schools, such as the Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asian Schools (IASAS), operating in Southeast Asia.
SAISA events enable students to represent their schools at other schools abroad. They also provide students an opportunity to visit other international schools in the region and to sample and experience homestays with other families. The people participating in the events have to comply to a strict code of conduct.
The purpose of SAISA is to promote and coordinate regional professional development activities, academic and cultural festivals, athletic tournaments, and other events deemed appropriate by the member schools.
As educators committed to the ideal of realising the full potential of each student, we believe the fundamental aim of SAISA is to promote the values of collaboration, creativity, sportsmanship, and fair and ethical competition.
While acknowledging the notion of ‘winning’ in sporting events and other competitions, a recognition more important is that students come together to participate in various activities in the truest spirit of cooperation and competition, and develop physically,emotionally, creatively and intellectually through the sporting, academic and artistic experiences themselves.
To ensure its realisation in each SAISA event, the above aim is to be included in the correspondence between each school, its students and parents.
SAISA was started in 1972, International School of Islamabad (ISI - now ISOI), Lahore American School (LAS), Karachi American School (KAS), Murree Christian School (MCS) and the American International School of Kabul (AISK) came together to become the South Asia Inter-Schools Association (SAISA). This was a way for the schools to give their students a cross cultural opportunity, to play competitive sports and make new friends.
The schools annually arranged sporting, cultural and academic events. This would include team sports such as American Flag Football, basketball, Field Hockey and Soccer; Track and Field, Individual sports such as Swimming, Tennis, Badminton and Table Tennis; Drama - each school performing a One-Act Play; Music; Art; College Bowl, Debating Competition and Chess were also included. Small schools like MCS would close down for a week in order to participate in multiple events. These events were all held on the same week, not spread out over the year like they are now. Later on, other international schools around South Asia started to join the organization. The American Embassy School (AES) Delhi joined SAISA after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which also ended Kabul’s involvement in SAISA.
By the early nineties, the original schools were joined by the American International School of Dhaka (AISD), the Overseas Children’s School of Colombo (OCS and Lincoln School, Kathmandu (LS). OCS later became the Overseas School of Colombo (OSC). In the early nineties, SAISA decided to split into two divisions, East and West, for a number of events. The organisation would still hold two major all-SAISA sports tournaments per year and the Cultural Convention would focus on thee main areas: Music, Drama and Art. Later Art was dropped from the program. When the decision was made to do Music and Drama separately, the idea was to rotate these each year so that schools could attend only one event would be able to do Music on year and Drama the next. However, the logistics proved too complex and by the mid-nineties, the Drama had settled into a February slot and Music into April. Only the large schools like Islamabad, Delhi and Dhaka who had both a big campus and enough housing for all participants to stay in were able to host the all-SAISA events. This limited MCS to hosting the mid-school soccer because the students from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad could stay at the nearby Pearl Continental hotel in Bhurban.
A couple of events were cut completely from the SAISA timetable. Then the split in SAISA occurred, events like Art, Racquet sports, College Bowl, Debate and Chess were all thrown out of the organization. American Flag Football disappeared from the organization in the mid-eighties as more and more local students, who were not familiar with American Football, joined the International Schools. The core sports became Soccer, Basketball, Field Hockey, and Volleyball. Field Hockey was also cut because it cost too much for the International Schools in insurance.
SAISA Sports Tournaments during the eighties including Cheerleading, which is not seen in today’s programs. Official Cheerleaders, with their expertly choreographed movements and chants cheered their teams to victory from the sidelines. As the organization spread out over a larger area resulting in the teams traveling further distances to attend tournaments, it become extremely expensive to take the sports team as well as their squad of cheerleaders to the tournament. There was also the cultural issue behind cutting out the cheerleaders. In South Asia it was probably not a good idea to allow “scantily clad females to parade on the grounds” even in the enclosed campus of the international schools.
SAISA provides the chance for students to get a break from the pressures of school work and to get out and visit other schools, mix with students from different backgrounds, share common experiences, develop new skills in the company of other like-minded young people, and make lifelong friends. All of these add up to far more than just a game of basketball or soccer, or an excellent dramatic production. SAISA is a tool, which forms character, a program that adds value to the educational experiences of young people, and an environment, which provides personal growth through students interacting in different cultural surroundings.
Before it had AES(American Embassy School - Delhi) but they were so strong so they moved to MESAC