For expats working in Saudi Arabia, not a week passes before some new rule hits them from the blue. In fact, so fast do these rules and flip-flops keep occuring that sometimes it becomes difficult to even keep a tab on what's going on. This week was no exception.
Of the several categories of expats in the kingdom, the one deserving most sympathy are female teachers. Under-paid, over-worked and always stressed up, these women have been undergoing virtually mental torture in the past one year, if that is an under-statement.
First, it was the new set of rules about female teachers who are on the sponsorship of their husbands, to switch over to that of their schools. For obvious reasons, most female teachers preferred not to do so. This blog had covered this issue extensively in the past (click here). So, when there were not enough female teachers to teach the kids, pressure started building up on the powers that be. What do you do when the potato in your hand gets too hot? Well, predictably that is exactly what happened. In a watered-down flip flop of the earlier rule, annual permits were issued to female teachers (click here for details) with a big list of strings attached (do this, do that, etc).
Now the 'downside' of this was that female teachers continued to be under the sponsorship of their husbands, which meant that they could resign any time and join some other school. How could this be tolerated in the kingdom of humanity? Afterall, expats are supposed to be under the total control of Saudi sponsors who have the ultimate authority to decide when to release their slaves, uh.. I mean employees, right? This is what has been practised for all other professions, so how could teachers, that too females, be an exception?
So, some wise guy up there thought of a new rule and here it is. As per the Ministry of Education's latest rule, female expatriate teachers working in private schools in the kingdom are not supposed to change jobs during an academic year. Also, female expatriate teachers cannot switch jobs for two years from the date of taking their assessment exam conducted by the Education Ministry. Note the emphasis on the word F word.
So, by a single stroke of order, wheels of reform have taken place. Problem is that they are in the reverse direction. Why do you complain? Afterall, haven't we been gracious enough to allow you to at least teach when we didn't even allow you to drive?
What the smart Alec who created this rule doesn't realize is that you cannot prevent female teachers from quitting. You can only prevent them from joining elsewhere mid-way in an academic year. And by the way, why would anyone want to quit if she is paid well and treated with the dignity which her profession deserves?
History has proven time and again that no country or society which doesn't treat its women with respect has progressed. For all you female teachers, I can only say for the moment - Good luck!