Tuesday, September 2, 2014

School crisis in Kuwait

KUWAIT: Public and private schools in Kuwait are welcoming the new academic year, but some expatriate children will not be able to attend school due to residency and financial difficulties.
In an unfortunate turn of events, both Noora (not her real name) and her husband lost their jobs just a month apart from each other. Their 12-year-old daughter, who should be in sixth grade this year, will not be going to school. “I did not enroll her this year because of the current work-related situation we are facing. We have no money to send her to school. She understands and we told her about our financial troubles,” Noora told Kuwait Times.
 
“I didn’t want this to happen, but have no choice. I hope she’ll be able to join again in the next school year,” she said. Noora was a secretary at a recruitment agency while her husband worked as an office clerk. They are currently looking for employment. “We have a limited income, so we have no savings at all – we spend most of our salaries on rent, food and school fees, so we haven’t saved enough money to continue schooling our daughter,” she explained.
 
In Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, an Indian couple will not be sending their 7-year-old autistic daughter to a school for special needs children. The mother told Kuwait Times that the family could not afford the tuition.
 
“The tuition fees for an autistic child are far more than regular tuition fees, so we opted not to send her to school. Anyway, her father is taking care of her and teaching her the basics,” she said. Marissa has a different story. She has two children, aged 10 and eight. If they had been going to school, they would likely now be in fifth and third grades. Instead they are at home every day, watching children’s television programs. “As much as I want to send them to school, they cannot because they don’t have residency,” she said. Marissa works at a flower shop while her husband works in the kitchen at a restaurant in Hawally. “Even if they had residency, we cannot afford to send them to school because we barely make enough to survive,” she explains.
 
Marissa’s KD 150 monthly salary is just enough to pay the rent. Most of her husband’s KD 200 income is sent to his family back in the Philippines and the remaining goes towards their food requirements here. “Sometimes I do not understand him,” Marissa rued. “He worries about his family back home while sacrificing the education of his children,” she said. The Philippine Embassy assists Filipino parents willing to send their children back home. “I applied last year to send the children to the Philippines, but my husband backed out. He said he could not bear to be separated from his kids. Now the kids are learning ABCs on the television, and most of the time I teach them and buy them books to read. The elder one is very smart, but the youngest wants to watch TV and does not want to be bothered,” Marissa said.
 
Hossam, a Syrian salesman working in Salmiya, also has a 12-year-old daughter who is out of school. In fact, she has never attended a single class. “I don’t know my husband. I told him to send our daughter to school a long time back and he kept on promising he would, but until now she’s out of school and I have stopped asking,” Hossam’s wife told Kuwait Times. “I heard him say years back that he would not send our daughter to school because she’ll be married off and eventually leave us. I thought it was a joke, but this is happening now,” she said.
 
Last month, Romy decided to send his family back to the Philippines. He has two sons, aged 12 and 10, but he felt that he could save more money if his family stayed in the Philippines. “I felt stressed financially in the last two years. My salary increased only a little but everything here in Kuwait went up, from rent to basic goods. So I felt the need to sacrifice – the money I earn here is no longer viable to give them what they need. So I sent my wife home with the two children. We’ll set up some business and if it goes well, I will follow them next year,” Romy said.
 
Lina, another Filipino expat, has also felt the financial pressure. Lina’s four children will be heading to the Philippines next year. “About time perhaps to send my kids back home. It’s really hard to sustain the needs of our kids here, especially school fees. My eldest son is 14, so I can entrust him with his siblings. The situation is very difficult because of the high cost of living. My husband and I have agreed to this,” she said.
By Ben Garcia
 
I feel for these parents as there is zero job security in this country which means everyday you will worry if you will have your job tomorrow. The school fees go up and up but the quality of education is low. Some schools have lower fees but in turn the parent has to pay for every single item like paper, pencils, books etc. while other schools make you pay a fortune for the school uniforms. ESF charges almost 100 KD for their uniforms because they supposedly come from the same place that made Harry Potter costumes or something like that.
 
Some schools get the uniforms from Syria or other places where the prices are almost nothing but charge 15 KD or more for shirts and pants, you will have to replace them before the end of the year because of the low quality. My favorite event is when the school decides to change their colors and when you go to pay the fees they tell you to buy all new uniforms. NO ONE REGULATES THE SCHOOLS to make sure they are performing.
 
Cambridge school had children sitting in the library doing nothing because the Arabic teacher would never show up. If there isn't a teacher for a certain subject the kids would hang out somewhere until that class period was over. Parents are paying a lot of money for a mediocre education.

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