Parents and Expatriate/Local Hire Teachers: Stay away from Al-Ghanim Bilingual School in Salwa, Kuwait!
It’s my opinion that you should stay away from Al-Ghanim Bilingual School in Salwa, Kuwait. These are some of the things that I disliked about the school:
1. The turn-over rate is very high for new “Westerners.” I think the reason for this is the administration does not provide the appropriate classroom support. Instead, the climate at the school is one in which some administrators are critical of teachers. In fact, the Director, Dr. Afaf El-Gemayel said in a meeting with new staff members, “If you look hard enough, all student problems are the teacher’s fault.” As a result of this attitude, the probability of surviving for very long at this school is low. Given the low probability of surviving at this school, it is not worth the financial, emotional, and time investment to go here.
2. The administration is constantly popping into classrooms to observe teachers. In some cases, they will go into a teacher’s classroom five or more days straight . . . And, then they will still come back to do more observations at-will. It is very uncomfortable and nerve-racking for the teachers who are being watched. The administration says that they are doing it to “help” the teachers, but it feels more like they are doing it to “push” them out of the school. It seems barbaric.
3. On a regular basis, the school “docks” people’s pay. As a Westerner, this was abhorrent to me—the idea that you could work a day and then lose that day’s pay based on the judgment call of an administrator. (My belief is that if someone has done something egregious enough, suspend them without pay. But to have people work and not pay them seems too self serving.)
4. The school does not live up to financial commitments. You may or may not receive money owed you. Just because an administrator says in an e-mail that she will reimburse you for expenses, does not mean that she will. Also, I heard stories about how this school refused to pay summer salaries and “indemnity” pay owed to some teachers.
5. The housing the school provided smelled. I think it was a combination of cigarette smoke and feces (no joke) from poor plumbing. When I returned to the “West,” I had to wash all of my clothes because they smelled.
6. During the interview process, Dr. El-Gemayel said that the school had all the necessary classroom resources. The classroom decorations that were supplied to a colleague of mine were old and dirty, and several important resources were not available for the start of school.
7. Even though the school is not licensed to teach special education students, the school has numerous low-level classes called “Special English.” Guess what the “Special” stands for? These classes have many students that should be evaluated for special education services. It appears to me that the administration does not want these students evaluated because if the results determined that these students needed special education services, then the students would have to leave the school, and the school would stand to lose a lot of tuition money. So, when teachers have trouble managing and teaching these students, the administration acts like the problem is with the teacher rather than acknowledging these students need services beyond the scope of a regular educational classroom.
Although I recommend staying away from this school, if you are even considering working there, make sure that you get the following before making a final decision:
1. A copy of the contract.
2. A copy of the staff manual. If it’s the same staff manual that I received, you’ll find a list of things teachers should not do and the consequences—including the number of days pay that will be lost.
3. Your assignment and schedule in writing. (There were teachers who were told that they would be doing one thing, and when they arrived they were told that they would be doing something else.)
When you request these reasonable things, consider how the administration responds. Do they freely offer them to you with a smile, or do they come up with excuses not to provide them? If they don’t provide them, beware!
If you make the mistake of accepting an offer from this school, then make sure you receive copies of your Initial and Final Approval Letters. (These approvals are sent to the school from the Kuwait Ministry of Education.) Also, once you receive copies of these items, contact that Kuwait Ministry of Education to make sure an original copy of your contract, as well as Initial and Final Approval Letters are on file. PLEASE DO THIS BEFORE YOU EVEN BOARD THE PLANE TO KUWAIT! I sought the assistance of the Ministry of Education when I was experiencing difficulty with the school administration. A ministry representative informed me that she couldn’t help me unless she had my original contract and approval letters on file (which she didn’t). Fortunately, the ministry representative was kind enough to refer me to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. (This ministry was a big help.) Unfortunately, I think the school administration purposely delays giving teachers these items so they won’t be able to seek assistance from the Ministry of Education when they’re being mistreated.
Please read additional reviews for the school and its director, Afaf El-Gemayel, on internationalschoolsreview.com. You must pay a membership fee to read reviews. Reviews may be posted for free.
Here are more reasons to avoid Al-Ghanim Bilingual School in Salwa, Kuwait:
1. Teachers/staff members are required to work on approximately TEN Saturdays during the school year, without being compensated for this extra time. (The Saturday work is usually related to professional development or the accreditation application process.)
2. Al-Ghanim Bilingual School is currently undergoing the accreditation application process with the Council of International Schools (CIS). This school shouldn’t be accredited by any organization—ever! As part of the accreditation application process, staff members and teachers had to complete self-study reports grading and evaluating various aspects of the school and its administration—policies, infrastructure, transparency, ethical treatment of employees. Originally, the school and its administration were given many poor ratings in the self-study reports. The director, Afaf El-Gemayel, threatened staff members and teachers with the loss of summer pay unless the ratings were changed to reflect the school in a more positive light. As a result, the self-study reports were falsified and are now tainted by Afaf El-Gemayel’s need to lie about the state of Al-Ghanim Bilingual School.