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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Bangladesh visa freeze hurting teacher recruitment, says school principal

The leader of Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School says children are losing their Bangladeshi culture as they cannot recruit more teachers from their homeland. 

A five-year freeze on issuing visas to workers from Bangladesh has placed extra strain on one of the emirate’s oldest schools.

The Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Bangladesh Islamia School is one of only two Bangladesh-curriculum schools in the country. Its Dhaka board curriculum is delivered in both English and Bangla.

The school has been unable to recruit teachers from Bangladesh since a ban on employment visas for new Bangladeshi workers took effect in 2012, reportedly due to rising crime. During a recent news conference to inaugurate a greenhouse on his school’s campus, principal Mir Anisul Hasan couldn’t contain his distress over the hiring freeze, telling the audience of officials, “we need some help”.

Later he acknowledged that his candidness may not have been “correct” or “diplomatic” but he thought it had been important to raise the matter.

“I tried to pass the message … that we are suffering for want of teachers,” said Mr Hasan, who has been with the school for more than 30 years.

The ban on hiring teachers from Bangladesh has forced the school to recruit within the UAE but even then there are challenges.

“We are able to recruit from here but Bangladeshi teachers very often are rejected, even locally, approval we are not getting,” said Mr Hasan.

About half of the school’s staff – including 49 teachers and 19 teaching assistants - are Bangladeshis.

“For the teachers who have already been working for many years, they are here, but new recruitment is not possible from Bangladesh,” he said.

Most of the curriculum’s books are in English, except for Bangla language and literature.

“So teachers coming from other countries like India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, they can teach,” he said.

Of the 665 pupils who attended the school last year, 98 per cent were Bangladeshi, 1 per cent were Indian and 1 per cent were Sri Lankan.

“The thing is, starting from grade nine to grade 12, we need expert teachers who have got expertise in learning and teaching scenarios from Bangladesh,” said Mr Hasan. “They are better acquainted with our syllabus, our curriculum, so we prefer teachers from our country.”

While students are becoming highly proficient at reading and writing in English, Mr Hasan said he is concerned their Bangla language and culture are suffering.

“[It’s] about cultural orientation and cultural familiarity. Bangladesh teachers can definitely play a good role,” he said. “I have seen that students are getting away from our culture due to lack of training in cultural consciousness. They find it a little difficult to write in Bangla, though they speak it very well. This is an alarming situation. If there is no good training from the mother tongue, I am sure innate education will never happen.”

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