This blog has maintained since its inception that for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia, the only thing certain in the kingdom is uncertainty. This has been proved repeatedly by the grandeur in which spate of rules and regulations are announced, only to be retracted with equal ferocity.
Probably the most pathetic among expatriates working in Saudi Arabia are their spouses working in International Schools. These teachers, respected more than parents in their homelands for their noble profession, are rather degradingly termed as "housewives" by the local press. Little thought is given to the simple fact that these women were hired by International schools because they were qualified, not because they were "just housewives".
The recent raids by the iqama-clipping over-zealous morons in the name of implementing Nitaqat has shaken the confidence of these teachers, who work to add some income to their husbands' kitty, not to just pass time. Most teachers preferred to stay at home out of fear. No one was sure whether they would be arrested and deported for working illegally, so they did the next best thing - they simply stopped going to work.
So bad was the situation that, believe it or not, an sms was sent by none other than the Ministry of Education to various International Schools in the kingdom. Here is the sms, which is self-explanatory:
Teachers heaved a sigh of relief and they started trickling in back to the schools. After all, the sms came from the horse's mouth, directly from the Ministry of Education, so they cant be wrong isn't it? Wrong. If in doubt, read the first sentence of this post once more!
Then came the damper. So what if the Education Ministry wanted schools to remain open? The Labor Ministry does not think so. In a complete reversal of the stand taken by the Ministry of Education, the spokesman for the Labor Ministry completely denied that spouses of expats were allowed to work. "The news is false, the ministry has not issued any such regulation", said the spokesman. Come on, the news was spread by none other than the Education Ministry through an sms! But then you don't talk logic in the kingdom, right? Take a look at this link:
So, it is now back to Square One. What do you expect these poor teachers to do? Do you want them to work or not? What would happen after the three-month grace period is over?
The worrisome part is that even if the sponsorship of these teachers are transferred to their respective schools to make their employment "legal", the real issue is that their passports would now have to be handed over to their schools. Now, how many husbands in their good sense would like to hand over their wives' passports to another sponsor? What would happen if the husband loses his job and the wife's sponsor refuses to release her passport? Would it mean that the wife stays in the kingdom and the husband and kids go back? These are all frighteningly real possibilities in Paradise. Where is this society heading? The very thought is worrisome, isn't it?
On a related note, I think a safe bet would be for these highly qualified women (I hate to call them as "housewives") work from home. The world is a small place and is just a few mouse-clicks away. Take a look at this link for some guidance on how to make money sitting at home.
Let's hope good sense prevails and we get to see these teachers back to work very soon. "Legally" and without fear.