School crisis worries expatriate parents


The parents of expatriate students studying in international schools have shown concern over the various problems facing the schools in the wake of the Labor Ministry’s new regulations for transferring teachers’ iqamas to the schools’ sponsorship.
Parents fear that the implementation of the order will result in a renewed spate of teachers’ absence from school and a hike in tuition fees.
At the start of the academic year in September this year, almost all international schools in Jeddah increased their fees by 50 percent with the permission of the Ministry of Education, citing expenses for sponsorship transfers and other issues.
“The Ministry of Education has taken teachers’ tests and offered the qualified teachers work permits but many are reluctant to transfer their iqamas to the schools’ sponsorship which will result in their having to leave their jobs. If these teachers stay home, the schools will close and we won’t be able to afford the schools which have doubled their fees,” said Assadullah Wasi a father of six, adding that the schools are demanding that the teachers pay 50 percent of their iqama renewal fees and that too, without quality medical insurance.
“It is hard to see how we can afford to pay children’s school fees along with the price rise in commodities and house rents, especially when our salaries are the same as they were before the crisis,” he lamented.
Another parent, Nilo Ahmed, said that the regulation on teachers’ work permits is a good move as it would weed out the unqualified teachers but the cost of the transfer of the sponsorship would reflect in the increased fees that parents would have to pay.
“Implementing the iqama regulation will result in increased tuition fees and parents will either have to look for cheaper schools to enroll their children or agree to pay the extra amount. The question is where will parents get the money to do that?” she asked.
Another parent, Shabir Ali, requested the Ministries of Labor and Education to postpone the implementation of the iqama sponsorship law to the end of summer vacation.
“The sponsorship regulation will certainly raise the fee structure in schools and those parents who cannot afford it will have to let their children stay home,” he said, adding that it was not possible to compare the policies of the UAE or other countries with Saudi Arabia as in this situation the expatriate children were being deprived of quality education. “The ministries of education and labor should take this into consideration,” Shabir Ali said.
Sumya Saleem, an English teacher at an international school, told Arab News that school authorities had ordered teachers to transfer their sponsorships to the school but they would have to pay 50 percent of the iqama renewal fees. “There is no increase in our salaries, so how fair is this? Teachers are responsible for developing the future of the children but how can they be expected to do that if their own future is uncertain?” she asked.
Mohammed Zaheer, a parent, said that if qualified teachers are hired from abroad, they have to be paid well. Perhaps then, the fee hike may be justified. But the problem is that 80 percent of the expatriate community cannot afford the increased fees.
The Kingdom is in the process of legalizing all its labor force in both the public and private sector in line with the regulations laid down by the Ministries of Labor and Interior with the aim of creating more jobs for Saudis. Private schools which mainly cater to the expatriate work force in the Kingdom and are run by expatriates often have teachers who are dependents of their fathers or husbands already legally working in the Kingdom.
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