Friday, November 22, 2013

Relief for female teachers?

Since the beginning of the campaign to regularize "illegals", one of the worst affected were female teachers working in Saudi Arabia, particularly in International Schools. This blog has repeatedly cautioned (click here) about the idiocy of excessively stringent regulations, which were to such an extent that the practicality of implementation had been completely ignored. As predicted, female teachers who were sponsored by their husbands preferred the best way out. They simply stopped going to work.

No doubt this caused some inconvenience to the family incomes, but the worst affected were schools and the children who suddenly found themselves facing empty blackboards with no one to teach them. The fears of these "illegal" teachers were genuine. As per the regulations, these teachers had to transfer their sponsorships to the schools in addition to giving a test by the Ministry of Education and getting all their certificates attested. The contentious part was in the transfer of sponsorship. What would happen if their husbands suddenly lost their jobs due to any reason? The female teachers would be left totally at the mercy of their schools. Remember, the passport is always with the sponsor, so theoretically the schools could easily stop their female staff from leaving the kingdom, even if their husbands and kids had to leave on exit. Why would anyone subject herself to such a situation, a primitive and atrocious form of modern-day slavery not found in any civilized country across the world?

Despite the local media gloating about how private schools had fully complied with the regulations and that the sponsorship of all "illegal" teachers were regularized, the fact was that teachers simply kept away bringing work to a grinding halt. Finally, as with all previous haphazardly created regulations, a work around has now been announced by the Ministry of Labor. According to the newly issued statement, female teachers who are under the sponsorship of their husbands / fathers are being issued annual work permits. These permits have information about their sponsors including the sponsor's Iqama number, the name of the school and the expiry date of the permit. Such permits are issued only to those who possess a license to work. What this implies is that the rest of the regulations, such as getting their certificates attested and undergoing a test are all still there except for the transfer of sponsorship.

While this might seem to be a big relief (in fact, it is a heavily watered-down version of the original rule), questions still remain. Will employing female teachers with annual permits be counted in the Nitaqat system for Saudization? There is a risk that if enough Saudis are not employed by these schools, they may fall into red category. Why not put an end to this confusion and simply say that the campaign for "illegal" teachers does not apply to females who are under the sponsorship of their husbands? But then, it would be too much to ask for, isn't it?  

Time and again, rules and regulations in Saudi Arabia were announced with much fanfare and rhetoric, only to be quietly withdrawn later as a whimper. This blog had mentioned numerous instances of the same in the past (click here). The first step towards diluting its own rules has now already been made by the Ministry of Labor. It would be interesting to see the fate of the regulations and the raids a few months down the line. 


Syed Shah Lateef Ahmed said...

Can I have your email address? I need to talk to you.


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