Choosing the Right School? [Archives:1998/31/Culture]

August 3 1998

Martin Danski,
There are no wrong schools but the Yemeni wants to see that school promises are put into motion, especially if he’s been in the state system where everybody knows that seats are few and tempers fly occasionally between teacher and student.
Occasionally I remember when the Saudi Ambassador came calling on a private school. “Go and set up your lab”, was the warning I got from the principal who in turn got it from the owner, a man that liked to think of himself as a shiekh. Well the premises had to look good. After all, it meant that putting out on the counter what we had would make a good impression, but the lab itself was hardly functional and any sensible person would wise up on a premises without any water distillation or emergency first aid box lying near an exit. And this was while the owner had ordered equipment for the lab several times, I think just to look good to the parents. Once I was even caught between him and an ordering firm for supplies, he expected me to get a discount for him at the supply shop and I told him I didn’t want to be his middleman.
Meanwhile contracts were just a formality, I had signed one for 522 bucks a month after a higher promise, and that was then reduced to 450 because of losing teaching hours due to ‘parent complaints’. It was only later that I found out that cheaper Indian hire got those lost hours and here again it looked like that I was initially offered those hours just to make the school look good in front of the parents. Today the same parents want me back so where are their complaints?
Then I had to work at a private university which initially had me coming in twice a week to teach American literature which I did for the first week.
Then I showed up and one of the classes was cancelled! The reason, not enough attendance. Isn’t it a rule of thumb that wherever you teach, especially higher institutions there should be some forewarning? That only meant half my pay there went away overnight. And I had just been asked to bring in other foreign language teachers!
Can’t forget an American school which brought me over on a one way ticket, saying that ‘when you leave you’ll get a return ticket’, but I got booted out unexpectedly, so goodbye to return tickets. Had an article written for me showing my artistic talents and was told it was because of that I got the boot; there was nothing in the contract which said that the teacher couldn’t advertise his artistic merit.
Later on a former employer there made a mention of the fact that a director had pocketed the money as well as having taken on extra teaching hours left over when I vacated the premises. So things clicked. How nice to run an international school where parents are told that teachers will stay, that they’re well paid only to find out that only one English teacher remained at the American school and that everybody else was Iraqi or Yemeni. Hardly an American international setting. To boot, this director has now emigrated to my home country, and how did he do it? With the money he pocketed from qualified American teachers like myself even though the school has been running downhill economically speaking.
Two weeks ago I wrote about what things to find out first when looking for foreign schools. Now that the school year is over, I can’t believe such a common denominator between all the private institutions I experienced would exist. People here had always been saying that private schools are better than state ones but if the teacher is not happy and mistreated, it doesn’t matter whether the school is private or state run. Parents should be all the wiser before putting their kids into places where there is no respect for the working individual and the foreigner is unlikely to come back and ask for more mistreatment unless certain guarantees can be made and kept.
If not, foreign embassies will ask the government to pressure their private operations to be fairer towards the foreign teaching hire.