The mere mention of the word SCHOOL here in Dubai is likely to evoke an eruption of emotions volatile enough to take on Mount Etna. It’s a hot topic and one that’s not going to die down very easily. People have children. Children need schools and school cost money – lots of it. Expats have limited choice as local schools are not open to foreigners and so its private schools, home schooling, boarding school or fractured families living across countries.
As an ex-fulltime teacher and now regular supply/substitute teacher I’ve seen the inside workings of the system and quite bluntly… teachers just don’t have the time necessary to accomplish what is needed or desired or dreamed of in an average school day. More and more is demanded of them – from the government, school leadership , the students and by their very nature, the teachers themselves. All of which means more and more time needed to tick the boxes simply to survive a day in a paperwork-plenty environment. I’ve never yet met a teacher who has closed his or her classroom door at the end of the day with everything crossed off the to-do list. There’s always much more required and still only 24 hours in a day.
So all that to simply say that since school is an important part of my community I really wanted to quiz a few teachers, but sadly, I could not find one that had the time to go beyond a sweet smile and informal greeting thrown over a shoulder attached to an arm holding and guiding at least two or three students.
I did manage to speak to some of the other staff though:
Denise Kish, American: Head of Curriculum and Assessment:
Denise interviewed me for a long-short, sub/supply position at the school last year. She very professionally went through all the required questions and I did the best to answer as I should. At the end of the interview she asked me if I was interested in the job and I misheard her, hearing only “Are you interesting?” I repeated the question slowly as I thought it rather strange. ”Are..you..interesting?” Some sort of trick question? Interesting is a very subjective thing after all. We ended up having a good laugh and perhaps that’s the only reason I got the job. Denise can laugh and does so regularly. This is her second year in Dubai. She came here after a long and successful career as an educator in the US – in all the fields from teacher to Principal to consultant. Been there, done that and now looking for something different is how she ended up here. Different she got and she’s enjoying the challenge, as well as the fact that she’s also able to send money home to ‘educate’ her five children. A common thread for expats but this time it’s after the fact as they are all grown up and some have children of their own. She’s helping them pay off their college debt and will continue to do so as long as its necessary. Highly commendable.
Jhoana A Nunag, Filipino: Teachers Assistant.
Jhoana has been in Dubai for eight years. She followed her Mechanical Engineer husband here, after he moved from Saudi Arabia. They have two children – a son studying like dad, to be a mechanical engineer in the Philipines and a daughter who lives with them and attends the Filipino School in Dubai. Jhoana owns land back home on which she would like to build a whole lot of apartments. Her dream is to return to the job she enjoyed most before she came out to be by her husbands side – owning her own business. Determined.
MaGe Arroza Tavnio, Filipino: Bus Attendant and nanny is adored by most of the children that come under her nanny-care. Her main job is to accompany the children on the buses to and from school but she gets fully involved in their little lives during the day too. She knows kids, she’s got 7 of her own as well as 3 grandchildren. Her husband lives and works in Saudi Arabia – where she has no desire to go. He drives a long haul truck between the Middle Eastern countries and she sees him every weekend, as routine drives bring him back to Abu Dhabi every Thursday. Maggi is bent on giving her children the best education she can and has two studying Criminology with two more still at school back home and the other three already working. She says she has six years left of school fees after which she will spend a few more years in Dubai making some money for herself. Effective.
Hazel Rumbaoa, Filippino: Cleaner, quietly and efficiently cleans up – over and over again behind the children. She swipes and sweeps, 6 days a week from six am to six pm. Sub-contracted out from the school, she has one month left on her two year contract and as her stay here has been hard and lonely she’s going home as soon as she gets her passport back and the clearance to do so. She’s not sure what to do next as jobs are in short supply back home and the pay minimal. She wants a rest first and then will decide on her future. Efficient.
Name and photo withheld: Born and bred in Dubai but of Jordanian origin, Sara (not her real name) is one of the school admin team. She’s fluent in English, despite Arabic being her first language and amongst other things does some of the translation work for the school. Sara is married with two children. She married her first cousin, although not specifically an arranged marriage in the traditional sense. She and her cousin were aware of each other growing up and at the age of 25, she told her mother that there was something between them. Her mother was initially not very keen, but Sara worked her over, which she then did, in turn persuading Sara’s father to agree to the marriage. And they’ve been happily married ever since. Interesting.