August 9, 2008

SABIS Threats and Intimidation, the Prelude

Posted in SABIS/Choueifat tagged , , , , , , , at 4:25 am by stephshimkooo

I was working at a Girls’ Middle School in Al Ain. There were three other native English speaking SABIS teachers working at the school, two Lebanese math teachers, and no science teacher because the one we had left over the winter holiday. We had no AQC or head supervisor for two months, and no member of the SABIS executive team or higher up came to speak to us, let us know they were there to support us, or even offered any help. They sent a woman from the Choueifat Ruwais school to come help us from time to time, and she was lovely. However, what she could do was limited by her interim status.

In February, we finally got a new, full-time AQC, and on one of her first days, she was given a very ugly job. She informed me and another English teacher, “C” that we were going to start teaching at Al Khazna on Sunday, the beginning of the following week. Al Khazna was a small town an hour’s ride away from the accommodation. There is little else in the town besides a school and a road. C politely refused, citing that she had not signed up for teaching English, and that she was not qualified to teach Elementary. I politely refused, citing my diabetes.

When first approached about working for SABIS, I specified that I would only work in Abu Dhabi or Dubai because of the modern medical facilities and access to good healthcare and medicine. As a 25 year old with type 1 diabetes for 20 years at the time, I know better than to be foolish. The SABIS HR person at the time gave me information about Al Ain and convinced me that it was a modern city with modern medicine, which it is. Day to day I am fine and in good control, but if any emergency should arise, I should always be in the vicinity of a comprehensive medical center.

Al Khazna Has Natural Wonders, but No Hospitals

Al Khazna Has Natural Wonders, but No Hospitals

However, upon the completion of our training, I was told that I would be in Al Khazna, the little dirt town without a hospital. I made my situation known to the appropriate people, and it seemed to be resolved fairly quickly, at least until the meetings started in February. Our new AQC said that she would report to the RAQC regarding the situation and we left it at that. The next day, the AQC told C and another English teacher, “M” that they would be going to Al Khazna the following Sunday. C again refused for the same reason, and M also politely refused for reasons of her own.

The AQC advised them “not to be stubborn” because SABIS could cancel our contracts. C and M stood their ground and again refused, citing their reasons, and knew that they were within their rights.

We had all been teaching near a full courseload until the week before when our role changed from “teachers” to “mentors.” No teachers had left from the school in Al Khazna, so whoever they were missing for particular positions now had also been missing at the beginning of the year, and apparently it was only a problem starting in February. In fact, the teachers in Al Khazna had literally being driven to the school, sat around, and been driven home for the first half of the year. They had been doing nothing while we worked our behinds off. Now, rumors were that some complained that some teachers from my school should be relocated to ease the full courseloads that these teachers now had. We were reluctant to do so after not only being overworked, but being left alone without any direction or leadership for two months. It was unacceptable, it made no sense, and it was about to get a lot worse.

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