Letters extra: perils of working abroad

10th August 2001 at 01:00

Perhaps my experience has been the exception rather than the rule: nevertheless, I can only advise teachers thinking of working abroad to do so with extreme caution. It can be very rewarding, but things can go very wrong. After one year of a two-year contract in Kenya, I find myself having to move on as the school finds itself overstaffed. I was very understanding when this was explained to me and began seeking a new job.

What I was not prepared for was the problems the school would cause me.

So far the school has withheld my salary since May. It has refused to make available the log-book of the car I bought on a school loan - thereby making it impossible for me to sell it.

After several letters, and repeated attempts to deal with the school office, it got to the point where I had no alternative but to seek legal advice. As a result, the air-ticket to the UK which was part of my contract has been withdrawn.

As I write I have no idea what will happen. I have no money (much of my savings having been spent renting a house - I have to be out of the school flat by the end of the month, and my wife and daughter have to live somewhere), I still cannot sell the car, and I have no ticket out of the country.

I know of several ex-pat teachers with similar stories. Working abroad can be enormously rewarding, but go abroad knowing that you may be at the mercy of an employer who will have no scruples about treating you badly - and, a long way from home, you may well find yourself in very difficult circumstances.

The grass may be greener over here, but there are some pretty dangerous snakes in it.

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