Sandstorm in a teacup

11th November 1994 at 00:00
With reference to your article "Teachers 'trapped' in Kuwait jobs'' (TES, October 28), what in the world has happened to our profession in the past few decades? I have never read such a saga of spineless whingeing! Whatever happened to British fortitude and integrity?

These women arrived in Kuwait to discover that some of the luxurious perks they expected were not as yet extant, but there are two sides to a contract and they seem to have failed miserably with theirs. They were not there to lounge around in luxury: they were there to teach, to help build up a school in a country which, just two years ago, suffered a devastating war.

A place such as that is not the Costa Brava or, indeed, Surbiton South. It takes time to put things back together, to acquire the equipment and buildings and, in the meantime, the answer is to improvise by performing such weird rituals as sawing the legs off chairs.

As for the non-functioning showers and loos, surely they must have realised that countries such as Kuwait, being hot and arid, tend to have trouble with their water and plumbing? A little knowledge of geography would have taught them that, in Arab countries, people think nothing of sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Indeed, it is said to be very good for the back. The time to start worrying about it is when the cockroaches start climbing into bed with you. If rooms look as if they haven't been cleaned for a year - so what? In dry countries the slightest wind can leave a room looking like that in five minutes. A good old-fashioned sandstorm, on the other hand, will give the impression that you are living in a pharaoh's tomb.

It will, no doubt, also come as an amazing shock that in Arab countries children generally speak Arabic rather than fluent English. This is one of the widely recognised problems of teaching them. I suppose it never entered anybody's head that learning a little Arabic before they got there might have made the job easier?

It is not these women who have been humiliated but the country and profession which produced them. Where, I ask myself, is the breed of British teachers who were once willing to work with a lump of chalk in one hand and a revolver, figuratively speaking, in the other?


8 Stourbank Road

Christchurch, Dorset

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