Teachers in Private Schools (Part 2) [Archives:2008/1217/Community]

December 18 2008

Mofeed Al-Gaad
[email protected]

In my previous article, I discussed the financial status of teachers in private schools. In this article, as promised, I will shed more light on the status of teachers in private schools. I will focus on the level of respect given to teachers by private school pupils. I will support my argument with statements written by teachers, who teach in private schools.

It is well known that respecting teachers is a duty laid upon students' shoulders. Teachers in all cultures of the world are offered special respect, because they perform a crucial and difficult task, the task of educating and preparing a new generation to work and to deal appropriately with life's ups and downs. Teachers invest their time and effort to educate the people around them, and that is why they are described as 'candles burning themselves to enlighten others'.

In some cultures like India, the respect offered to teachers is comparable with the respect offered to fathers. I noticed this in a conversation with my dear Indian teacher, Dr Gandhi. We spoke about students respecting teachers. Dr Gandhi told me that in India there is no difference between the way teachers are respected and the way fathers are respected. I told him that there is a fundamental difference between how a teacher is respected and how a father is respected in our culture. I explained that most private school pupils don't respect their teachers at all. Dr Gandhi was very surprised, because respect for teachers can be found in the Yemeni cultural concept of Mofeed.

Despite the fact that students ought to respect their teachers, the majority of private school students don't. Students merely care about their own entertainment and enjoying their time at school. Some private school students, because they pay for their education, consider their teachers to be their servants. Consequently, those students don't respect their teachers; instead they spend their class time talking and joking. Teachers can deter such naughty pupils by taking violent action against them, but teachers might be fired if they commit violence against a student. Students are valued above teachers, because private schools care more about students (who pay money) than about the teachers (who are paid money). Moreover, most private school pupils are either the sons of rich people or the sons of important government officials. Thus they have a high opinion of themselves and look down on the teachers, as if the teachers belonged to a lower class than their own.

To illustrate this point, let me tell you about a colleague of mine. He was teaching the governor's son in a private secondary school. As this student was talking during class, the teacher requested that he sit silently and listen. The student refused, saying: “I can't be quiet during class time. This is my habit, and you can do whatever you like.” After that, the teacher wrote this student's name on a piece of paper and gave it to the deputy headmaster, so that he would control this naughty student. To satisfy the poor teacher, the deputy headmaster promised to punish the student and make him apologize to the teacher the next day. The person in charge of social affairs at the school met the teacher the next day. He told the teacher: “For your information, the student you complained about to the deputy headmaster is the governor's son. Because this student is the son of a sensitive man, who can affect the school, you must deal with him politely. Otherwise the headmistress may fire you.” After that, the teacher did his best to deal with that student politely, but his efforts were in vain. The student remains as he was before, practicing his impolite actions and challenging the teacher. As a result the teacher has left the school.

To support the argument of this article, I provide statements written by teachers from private schools:

Fahed, an Arabic teacher, says: “The private school salary is not enough. I have been teaching in a private school for a few months without receiving my salary, because the private school administration is taking it as my son's fees. As for politeness and discipline among the secondary students of private schools, it has somehow been lost. Such students could be described as slaves because, as their age increases, their value decreases.”

English teacher Mouthe Al-Qadri says: “Any conversation about teachers in private schools has to focus on teacher position. The teacher is the victim of both the students and of the school administration. He is the victim of students in terms of dealing with them, and is the victim of the school's administration because the majority of students really need to learn basic things as well as their syllabus. Therefore, teachers are overloaded with more than they can teach. If there are two clever students in each class, such students deserve care and encouragement. The teacher is also the victim of the school administration in terms of his salary and time. Private school administration gives the teacher little salary, exploits his time and imposes other activities on him.”

Adnan Al-Halmi, an English teacher, declares: “Yemen is a country in which unemployment is high among university graduates, amid governmental silence about this phenomenon. At the same time, it is said that because Yemen is a developing country, it can't employ all college graduates. As a result, graduates have to work in the private sector. For instance, those who are teachers have to teach in private schools, accepting trivial salaries in response to their urgent need for food.”

These teachers are caught between the government's negligence and the private school owners' exploitation. They are obliged to bear the burden in order to support their families, as their only alternative is hunger and starvation. In my opinion, taking care of teachers is equivalent to building a great generation, as teachers are the main [pillar] of their nations. If I were to blame anyone, I would blame the government whose responsibility it is to take care of teachers and to supervise private schools. However, there must also be supervision of the teachers' performance, to ensure that the next generation will be able to face the age's challenges.

Finally, it is strongly recommended that both the government and private schools take into account the fact that teachers are the most important section of society worldwide and a main factor in advancement in all fields of knowledge in developed countries.

Nashwan Al-Khawlani says, “It is well-known that private schools pay teachers less because they know that employment opportunities in Yemen are scarce. There are thousands of graduates, knocking on the doors of hundreds of establishments day and night to get a job. Thus private schools seize such opportunities to gain money. As the living circumstances of graduates are bad, they are forced to accept salaries which do not cover their daily expenses. They lose respect for the students they are teaching, as if they are selling themselves to these schools. Students in private schools do not show any kind of respect to their teachers because they pay for their studies.”

To conclude, the teacher is a victim in private schools. The administration doesn't pay him enough salary to cover his basic needs, and the students don't respect him as a teahcher.