KUWAIT: The office of Abdullah Al-Basri, general manager of public administration for private education at the Ministry of Education, is a busy place these days. “The beginning of the academic year is our peak period as most people come to finalize their paperwork at this time. Parents and students wait till the last minute, although we are here the whole year. Students come to accredit their certificates, while parents ask for transfer papers for their children and other documents, giving the common excuses that ‘we were travelling’, ‘we didn’t know’ and others. They should be ready before the school starts,” Basri told Kuwait Times.
Parents of students in various private schools have been complaining of many problems they are facing with the start of the new academic year. Topmost are worries about school fees rising again, but Basri assured that such increases will not take place this year. But despite repeated statements, many parents have complained that fees have indeed increased. “Any parent who paid more than they paid last year in school fees is welcome to submit a complaint to our department. If this increase is not reasonable and not approved by the ministry, the parent can come with the receipts showing the difference between last year and this year’s fees. Then our department will take action,” vowed Basri.
“The employees of the finance department of the ministry will visit the school to confirm the complaint and register an official statement about this violation. A report is then issued and passed to the general director, who passes it to the legal department to contact the school. After that, a warning letter is sent to the school, giving them a period of 30 days to return the amount of the increase to the parents and prove it to the ministry. If the school doesn’t return the money, our department will slap sanctions on that school,” he added.
According to Basri, the Ministry of Education will block the school from completing its paperwork at all institutions. If the school persists in its violations and does not respect the ministry’s orders, the case will be submitted to the Minister of Education to withdraw the license of the school. In this case, the ministry will direct and supervise the school till the end of the academic year. Parents can also complain based on the fees announced on the website of the school, and inspectors of the ministry will follow similar procedures, Basri pointed out.
The Ministry of Education will form a committee headed by Undersecretary Dr Haitham Al-Athari to study all the other fees that private schools collect from parents. “This committee will prepare a ministry decree that sets the maximum limits of these fees and the procedures of approving them. The decree will manage the fees for transport, uniforms, trips and all other charges. Some schools demand an increase in book fees for instance due to an increase in shipping charges or costs, and the new law will regulate this issue as well,” said Basri.
“A school should get approval for any trip they are organizing for the students, which includes the fee. They are not allowed to increase it – they only can add a nominal transport fee. Also, most of the places to which the trips are made offer special rates for students. If parents have any doubts, they can demand an approval letter from the school to check the fees and if they are different, they can complain at our department,” highlighted Basri.
Some non-Arab parents have complained of the bad standard of the teaching of Arabic language, which is part of their schools’ curricula. Sometimes they can’t complain at the school as they are worried that the school may expel their children. “Supervisors from the ministry go on field visits to the schools to evaluate the teachers and their teaching. In general, Arabic for non-Arab speakers is very simple, and not the same as students in Arabic schools,” he noted. Basri also said that parents who feel their children have been treated unjustly can come to the department and complain, and they always defend the parents if there is any injustice or abuse by the school. The department is located in Mughira bin Shuaba Street in Salmiya.
Many teachers, especially of Western nationalities, work without work visas, which is illegal. Dozens of them start the academic year, then leave for Christmas vacations and do not return. Others have to leave the country every three months for a day or two as their tourist visa expires in three months. “Teachers should enter the country on work permits as they are coming to work here. If they enter the country on a different visa, they will be held responsible. There should be a contract between the teacher and the school, and without it, the school may terminate the teacher at any time without any rights. But if there is a contract and the teacher’s residency is on the school, he or she can get their rights from the ministry of social affairs and labor, which is the concerned body,” explained Basri.
A joint committee of the Ministry of Interior, MSAL and the municipality is responsible for this. “This committee reviews all the IDs of the teachers, their contracts, degrees and experience certificates. After submitting the complete file with these papers, the ministry will give the approval and the visa will be issued. The teachers should enter Kuwait on business visas and not tourist ones. The school should print the residency on their passports and then issue the civil IDs. Our administrative and financial affairs department goes on field visits to the schools to check the status of teachers and issues fines to violating schools that do not transfer the visas of teachers,” he stated.
“If during these visits a teacher is caught working on a visit visa, he or she will be deported and blacklisted. Even those on family visas are not allowed to work, and will be held responsible. Also, when teachers demand certificates of experience at the end of their tenure, these won’t be issued unless their residencies are with the schools. The ministry can’t force any school to employ a teacher, but if the employer doesn’t transfer the visa of the teacher, then he or she can leave whenever they want,” Basri concluded.
By Nawara Fattahova