Emirati public-school teachers 'will quit over work appraisals'

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The Ministry of Education is facing a wave of teacher resignations after a new evaluation scheme increased frustrations about a lack of benefits and career prospects. Northern Emirates teachers said that despite government efforts to attract more Emiratis to the profession, for years they have complained about working conditions, saying a […]

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The Ministry of Education is facing a wave of teacher resignations after a new evaluation scheme increased frustrations about a lack of benefits and career prospects.

Northern Emirates teachers said that despite government efforts to attract more Emiratis to the profession, for years they have complained about working conditions, saying a lack of incentives, promotions or health insurance has led to what one called a hostile environment.

The evaluation scheme that will come into effect in the coming academic year is pushing many into resigning after decades of service.

The scheme requires teachers to put in 25 hours of volunteer work and increases the number of classes they teach each week and training courses, among other obligations.

“There is nothing encouraging and no motivation to continue working in this field,” said Khaled Al Ameri, who has taught physical education at a Ras Al Khaimah public school for 16 years.

Mr Al Ameri said he and his colleagues had watched salaries in other government jobs increase while theirs lagged; many have found jobs elsewhere.

He was hired in 2001 with a monthly salary of Dh8,000 and now earns about Dh26,000.

“When we first started more than 10 years ago, a teacher’s salary was close to that of employees at different sectors. Today, there is absolutely no comparison,” Mr Al Ameri said. “We get paid less than anyone working anywhere with the same years of experience.”

With the Government trying to Emiratise the sector, “Emirati teachers should be treated like prized possessions”, he said.

“We know more than foreigners about the culture, traditions and our religion. If we are overworked, underpaid and ignored, how do you expect anyone to want to become a teacher?”

The ministry regulates public schools in all emirates except Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Veteran teachers said they had been promoted once or twice since they joined, under directives of the President, Sheikh Khalifa, in 2006 and 2012.

Promotions will now be determined by the evaluation scheme. It outlines compulsory objectives for teachers, among which are the yearly volunteering requirement and increasing students’ overall grades by 10 per cent compared with the previous year.

“How am I expected to do that? Shall I solve their exams on their behalf?” asked Abdulsalam Mohammed, a geography teacher at a RAK public school for 17 years.

He is paid almost Dh28,000 – the same rate since 2007.

“I have been doing this job for 17 years now and was promoted once,” Mr Mohammed said. “The ministry has increased the number of classes that I must teach per week to about 20 to 24 classes.”

In 2013, he received a teaching award but said the workload and expectations had increased and teachers were expected to volunteer on their own time.

“As teachers, our job does not end by the end of the school day. We go home and prepare for the next day’s lesson, we meet parents, organise activities and many other things.”

Muneera Al Zarooni, a specialist team leader at a Sharjah public school, said some teachers had no problems with their salaries but more with the workload and lack of appreciation.

Ms Al Zarooni has taught for 20 years and now is in charge of training teachers, and says she has seen many resign.

“Incentives should be introduced and the workload must be reduced,” she said. “If they expect teachers to do volunteer work, then they must reduce the workload.”

A M, who has been a school social worker for 13 years, said another problem was the lack of health insurance. Emiratis in the Northern Emirates are treated for free in government hospitals but there is no mandatory health insurance plan.

They are not given additional cover unless their employer provides it.

“We get no health insurance, no promotions and no benefits, and no one listens to our complaints,” she said. “It’s a hostile environment. Every person who work in this field will tell you that.

“They have increased the load on us and it’s become more than teaching and caring for the students, with the new volunteering they want us to do.”

The ministry did not respond to questions.

Last month, Salem Al Shehhi, an FNC member from RAK, raised the issue with the council and said significant numbers of teachers were resigning because the profession had “become almost repulsive”.

Media reports had suggested that hundreds of Emirati teachers had quit their jobs in public schools last year.

While some suggested it was the normal annual turnover, Mr Al Shehhi told the council that he had spoken to teachers in person, urging officials to do the same.

Mr Al Shehhi also told the council that Hussain Al Hammadi, Minister of Education, had declined to attend five consecutive FNC sessions after being invited to answer questions.

salnuwais@thenational.ae

Source: uae news

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