Global education provider axes 40 staff in Dubai, sparking student protests

13th November 2009 at 00:00
Job losses follow assurances by schools chief that there was no call for 'panic' over impact of recession on expat employment

One of the world's largest providers of private education has made some 40 staff redundant because of the global downturn, prompting a campaign from pupils to have popular teachers reinstated.

The staff, axed by Global Education Management Systems (Gems), include administrative staff, teaching assistants and five teachers in schools in the United Arab Emirates, where it operates 25 of its 60 international schools.

The redundancies come just months after Gems' chief of schools Professor Ralph Tabberer said there was "no reason to panic" over predictions of a 17 per cent population drop in Dubai this year due to heavy expat job losses.

At Wellington International School in Dubai, the decision to lay off popular British maths teacher Neville Hopwood has prompted an online campaign by hundreds of students.

A Facebook group with nearly 500 members claimed the teacher, from Leeds, had been unfairly treated and pupils initially threatened a walkout.

One student writing on the "We Want Hopwood" Facebook group said: "He was a unique and fun aspect of Wellington and it was stupid to let him go! It was crazy to get rid of such an amazing teacher."

A source in Dubai said there was now an atmosphere of fear that there would be another wave of job losses.

One member of the group questioned how the school justified making good teachers redundant while school fees had risen by 12 per cent.

Gems, which educates about 100,000 pupils worldwide, refused to say where other job cuts had been made but confirmed plans to stop offering secondary classes at the Royal Dubai School.

A Gems spokesman said the job losses should be taken in the context of the group's 6,500 staff in the UAE.

He said overall pupil numbers were up by 3,000: "In a few schools however, there has been slower growth than expected. In these cases we are doing what we do every year, and adjust staffing levels.

"The only difference this year is that because of the recession, H1N1 (swine flu) and Ramadan there have been delays in being able to confirm actual student numbers. Therefore we are now adjusting slightly lower because there are fewer opportunities to redeploy than in previous years."

He said the decision to terminate teacher contracts of teachers had been made by heads of the schools concerned.

UAE BUSINESS JEWEL

Global Education Management Systems (Gems) was founded by Sunny Varkey, the son of Indian immigrants who set up an Indian school in Dubai in 1959.

The network of about 50 schools covers 10 countries, including the UK, but its stronghold is the United Arab Emirates.

The group educates 100,000 students and employs 9,000 teachers and other staff.

Gems' head of schools is Ralph Tabberer, former director general for schools at the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

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