x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Arab Spring will lead to teacher shortage for UAE private schools

Turmoil in the region will lead to a shortage of teachers for private schools next year, the head of the Sharjah Education Zone has warned.

Saeed Al Kaabi, director of the Sharjah Education Zone, left, speaks at a meeting of the FNC. Razan Alzayani / The National
Saeed Al Kaabi, director of the Sharjah Education Zone, left, speaks at a meeting of the FNC. Razan Alzayani / The National

DUBAI // Turmoil in the region will lead to a shortage of teachers for private schools next year, the head of the Sharjah Education Zone has warned.

Saeed Al Kaabi told teachers and FNC members at a public meeting that private schools were finding it extremely difficult to hire teachers from Arab countries suffering political tensions because of security concerns.

Mr Al Kaabi said the extent of the problem would probably be unclear until the new academic year started in September.

"By the next academic year, and remember what I am telling you, there will be a shortage," he said. "We all know why."

When pushed by Hamad Al Rahoomi (Dubai) to explain, he said the problem was political and a solution was needed.

"If I stopped [schools] from bringing in someone from abroad then I must give an alternative," Mr Al Kaabi said on Sunday night. "Give a list of Emiratis who can work."

But that would mean extra funding for Emiratis' higher salaries, for which he called on the Government to give private schools a subsidy.

"Tell them if you will pay Dh8,000, we as a Government will pay another Dh8,000," Mr Al Kaabi said.

Private school heads agreed, particularly as many teachers used to be hired from Egypt and Syria.

"It is difficult these days," said one principal, whose school had begun to recruit more aggressively in countries including Jordan and Morocco.

"Lots of people are discussing that. I'm not having any problems so far but it's a concern for some school principals.

"It's difficult for them to recruit from some school countries. We are very cautious when we recruit teachers. Before, it wasn't a concern."

The principal, who declined to give his name, said it had also been difficult to hire Emirati teachers.

"We would love to recruit local people but unfortunately they don't come," he said. "At government schools they get even higher salaries and more benefits than in the private sector."

A recruiter at the discussion on Sunday night told the council she had been offering "appealing salaries" for Emiratis for three years, and had not received a single application.

"No one even called to ask about the salary," she said.

She said the ministry should remove an Emiratisation requirement, but Mr Al Rahoomi strongly objected, saying there were still many unemployed Emiratis.

"The shortage of Emirati teachers is the current problem, particularly of male Emiratis," he said, adding that male Emirati teachers only accounted for 10 per cent of those working with the Ministry of Education.

Yousef Al Shehhi, a principal of Al Rams Secondary School in Ras Al Khaimah, said a lot of his teachers were from Egypt, Syria and Jordan, but as they already had visas he was not concerned.

"The Government, you know, they have a good vision," Mr Al Shehhi said. "I don't think that something like this will happen in our country because our President has a good vision, an excellent vision, and they can solve these problems before they happen. Our country is in safe hands."

Other principals said many teachers left because of a lack of job security. Some expatriate teachers who had worked in the UAE for two decades said they still had to wait until the end of each academic year to find out whether their contract would be renewed.

That, the school heads said, led some to seek greater stability elsewhere.

Dr Mona Al Bahar, an FNC member from Dubai, admitted such insecurity was a problem. She said those who had been in their positions for a long time should be given long-term contracts.

Mr Al Kaabi suggested that after decades of service to the country "raising the next generations", teachers should be offered a path to Emirati citizenship.

But council members said this was the concern of the Naturalisation and Residency Department, and not related to education.

osalem@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Anna Zacharias