Saturday, October 5, 2013

Tough time for Teachers !

With hardly a month left for the grace period to expire, International schools in the kingdom as well as female teachers are under tremendous pressure.

Most international schools employ locally hired female teachers from their own countries. This is more due to acute shortage of qualified teaching staff rather than anything else. Until now, these female teachers could still be under the sponsorship of their husbands while working in these schools. But the sweeping changes brought about by the Nitaqat scheme (click here to read my earlier article on this) has affected the employment of these teachers which in turn has had a domino effect on the education and future of expat kids studying in these schools.

To begin with, the Ministry of Labor issued a set of guidelines in August. Teachers planning to work in any school in the kingdom MUST get their sponsorship changed to that of their respective schools, as per those guidelines. They must have the relevant academic qualification certificates. Now comes the beginning of a long journey, so typical of Saudi bureaucratic red tape.

The certificates must be attested by both Ministry of Education as well as Ministry of Higher Education. For this to happen, the certificates must be attested by the Saudi Cultural attachés in the respective countries of the teachers. The Saudi Cultural attaché will attest this only if the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the host country attests it, who will in turn do so only if the Vice Chancellor or his designated official of the University from where the teacher completed her education attests. No, we are not yet done !

Additional requirements by the Ministry of Labor are that the teacher must be between 18 to 60 years old, must have a valid iqama and must have spent at least one year under her husband's sponsorship before even applying for a transfer of sponsorship to the school. Which means that if someone brings his wife to the kingdom and she finds a job in a local school, she has to wait at least a year till she can even think of applying. Height of nonsense, isn't it?

Wait, we are not done yet. The Ministry of Labor insists that the qualification of these teachers must match with the subjects they are going to teach. And you know how stupid these rules are? It is the qualifications of the teacher at graduate level which matters, so if someone has done a post graduation in a different stream she is not supposed to teach that subject ! Finally, the teacher must qualify for an interview to be conducted by the Ministries of Education and Higher Education. Interestingly, daughters of expatriates in the kingdom are not allowed to transfer their sponsorships to the schools, only sons are allowed. How do you spell c-h-a-u-v-i-n-i-s-m in the kingdom of humanity?

Okay, so as expected, most teachers preferred to simply stay at home rather than going through all this mess, which indeed it is. Who wants to be jailed and deported like a common criminal, for simply teaching children? In so typical fashion, when teachers stopped going to work, the Ministry of Education issued new guidelines recently.

The time for transfer of sponsorship has now been extended by one year. Teachers have to obtain a so-called "Certificate of Eligibility" from the Ministry of Education without which they cannot work even during this one year without changing their sponsorships. The necessary forms must be filled in and copies of the qualification certificates must be submitted to the Ministry, in order to obtain this certificate of eligibility. If teachers do not have the qualification certificates, they can produce substitute certificates provided they are not over 5 years old. Schools are supposed to maintain records of these teachers to produce to the officials of the Labor office whenever they come for inspection.

Teachers are supposed to get their original certificates attested as described before, within this one year. However, they are all required to take up a test set up by the Ministry (oh boy, here we go again!) Once they pass this test organized by the Ministry of Education, they will be issued a certificate. I tend to believe that this is one more money-making exercise, similar to what they did with engineers being asked to get their certificates attested by the Saudi Council of Engineers (click here to read that article). Now this certificate issued by the Ministry of Education has to now be attested by the Ministry of Labor who will then be issuing another letter called "Letter of Declaration". Unless teachers possess this letter, they are not supposed to work in any school even during this one year period and if caught, they will be imprisoned, fined heavily and deported after completion of their sentence. After all, they are common criminals, aren't they?

Now these guys who come up with such brainwaves probably do not have a clue of how to even think practically. Let's say a teacher does go through all the above nonsensical procedures and gets her sponsorship transferred to the school. And let's say the husband's job is Saudized. Remember, the wife's passport is now with the new sponsor, i.e., her school. So this means the husband and the kids have to leave the kingdom while the wife will be alone in this country till she completes her contract with her sponsor. And God forbid, if she lands into some kind of labor dispute with her sponsor, she has to stay alone and fight it out. Quite a frightening possibility, isn't it? I really pity these teachers, who are doing such a fine job in a noble profession, next only to nurses. Expats with kids studying in the kingdom - think hard about your children's future. 


Anonymous said...

Dear Expatguru,
The problem you have described start with accepting vaulting the law from both party the school and the teacher. Correcting is painful and it is more painful here in Saudi. More than 80% of the teachers in privet schools are expat and the education quality is the worst in the world. I am not saying teachers are all bad but some are not teachers to start up with.
I really feel sorry for the teacher you described but you can't generalize his experience as I know a real school how doesn't accept vaulting the law to start up with and they don't allow their real teachers to do anything other than teaching. I know they are not many of them but you have to be careful with whom you sign.
Have a nice day

Expatguru said...


I do agree with you. Just like there are good and bad doctors, good and bad engineers etc., there are also good and bad teachers. But my point was not that. Yes, all of us agree that education in the kingdom is not a quality one. So why create unnecessary hurdles and procedures which only keeps away the few teachers who are already there? Instead, focus should be on improving the quality of education.

Anonymous said...

Simply home-school, cheaper, safer and the next best thing after ivy league schools. I think we need to form more Homeschooling organisations in the Kingdom

Khalil said...

Honestly, this is GOOD news. There are simply too many fake "teachers" in private schools.

I'm sick of paying BIG amounts of money to have my kids being taught by some 20yr old who doesn't even have a degree or any experience. And if she does have a degree, it's in biochemistry and she's teaching something like history. What a joke.

Teaching requires a teaching degree. You go to teachers college, you learn how to educate kids and promote them to learn on their own. That's how REAL countries and REAL schools choose their teachers. Not this embarrassment they call a school. From the school in the diplomatic quarter all the way down to Khaled schools. They're all filled with under qualified "teachers"

Teachers aren't to blame, schools just want to make more money and I'm glad they're being punished. Hire people who call themselves teachers for dirt cheap, no flight, no insurance, no housing allowance. Just cheap labor. No, pay the big money and hire some real teachers, parents are paying enough to support real education.

Expatguru said...

Good point, Khalil. There is no doubt that private schools charge exorbitantly. But even after paying so much to these schools, the fact is that teachers aren't paid well. So where is the disconnect? On the one hand we have these schools making a quick buck without delivering. On the other hand, we have the Government imposing ridiculous regulations. If you need the best of education for your kids, you need the best of teachers. For this to happen, you need to pay these teachers well. After all, the best apples in the market fetch the best price.

Having said this, rather than penalizing teachers, the Government must bring in regulations to penalize the school managements who do not deliver. Making the teachers run around to do innumerable number of attestations and threatening to put them in jail is not the way any teacher in any civilized country of the world is treated.

Khalil said...

Hi Expatguru,
I agree that the institutions themselves should be punished. Lots of businesses, not just schools should be punished for the things they do. But as you know, the majority of these institutions are owned by "important" figures. So you cannot punish the big players and make them unhappy directly.

This is the only way to make them change, and I do hope that they start paying good salaries to bring in REAL teachers. Because even if they paid good salaries and still brought the same group of inexperienced and under qualified "teachers" we'll be in the same boat.

Anonymous said...

Now will they extend time for processing the papers again? I have heard r going to do it true? ?

Expatguru said...


This is very difficult to say at this point of time. But the embassies of SriLanka, Bangladesh and Indonesia have made formal applications for time extension. The Labor Minister has already made it clear that there is no intention of extending. It is now totally up to the king to decide, like last time.