Gulfs apart before the final interview

29th September 1995 at 01:00
Recently I resigned from a teaching post in southern Spain and, back in England, was delighted to be invited for interview for a post in Saudi Arabia. It seemed lucrative by international standards and I was tempted by glowing descriptions of what life in the Gulf could be like.

I arrived early for my appointment at a Kensington hotel and was summoned to a room on the 12th floor which offered spectacular, and undoubtedly expensive, views of central London. So far so good.

The interview seemed to go well. Then I was handed a document entitled "conditions of employment". I was sent to Reception and advised to read these four printed pages carefully. I would then be called back for further discussions.

For nearly an hour I sat in the hotel bar reading. Teachers employed by this private school, I read, were not allowed to leave their area of employment without written permission of the school authorities.

Nor were they allowed to leave the kingdom without similar written permission of these same authorities.

A detailed list of regulations regarding the conduct expected of teachers employed by the school followed. Any infringements of these rules, such as late correction of homework or lack of punctuality, would be sanctioned automatically by loss of one day's pay for each infringement. Furthermore, during the summer holidays one month's salary would be retained by the school to cover against a teacher's failure to return for the second year of contract.

I took up this last point when I was called back for the second half of the interview. The school had had particular problems with British teachers in the past, I was told, and these conditions had been drawn up in the light of those experiences.

I was offered the post but turned it down. Anyone tempted to accept apparently well-paid jobs overseas should consider the implications with great care. Only if substantial numbers of applicants refuse to accept the loss of basic rights will such employers be pressured to treat teachers as human beings.

I am still unemployed and open to offers.

George Mansur lives in Stockport, Cheshire

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