x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Rowdy pupils scare away newly arrived expat teachers

'Shocked and scared' teachers are leaving after just a few weeks having witnessed fighting and pencil stabbing in the classrooms.

ABU DHABI // Several expatriate English teachers newly recruited to the capital's schools are leaving within weeks of arriving because, they say, the children are "out of control". They number roughly three per cent of the total.

Some said there were no curriculum or school books while others said they were "shocked and scared" because of fighting and pencil stabbing in the classrooms.

The expat teachers said they also felt there had not been adequate preparation for their arrival. They said they had been told there would always be an Arabic teacher in class with them, which, they said, had not been the case.

Roqia Swiss, a newly appointed grade 3 teacher at Al Samka School in Abu Dhabi, said: "There are no Arabic teachers accompanying us. We could do with the Arabic support to ease communication. They told us there would be."

Some, like Vern Harvey, were so unhappy they left almost immediately. Mr Harvey arrived in the UAE on September 3 to teach at Al Ebtekar Model School for Boys in Ghayathi, in al Gharbia.

Although he thought the New School Model was a "wonderful vision", he said the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) needed to be better prepared. "I had no Arabic support in the classroom and no support from the administration," he said. "The discipline issues were extreme. I was shocked and scared. The boys would be fighting all the time, there was throwing of things and pencil stabbing in the classroom and no one would help me to manage them."

On October 10, just 39 days after arriving, he returned to the US.

George Pehl, from Houston, Texas arrived in Abu Dhabi on August 14 and left on October 5. He complained of the lack of resources at Zayed al Khair Model School for Boys in Madinat Zayed. "There were no books to work with, just a few sets used for group instruction," he said. "There was no curriculum. We could not get them to sit down, they were hitting each other constantly - it was out of control."

Adec said things should change. The council said that eventually there would be an English teacher in every kindergarten class. For now, they are in the upper year, KG2, but spent part of their time in KG1.

Vincent Ferrandino, a recruitment adviser at Adec, said: "As we are bringing in more people, we are trying to implement the full model." He said only about 50 of the 1,500 new teachers had left. "Teachers are receiving the support and the training prescribed in the model. We did take the precaution of having translators there and all the material is also being translated in English and Arabic."

He said discipline was a challenge for teachers worldwide. "If a teacher cannot manage a class, then perhaps they are not ready for the job," Mr Ferrandino said.

aahmed@thenational.ae