Parents 'bullied' by private school |
Kuwait Times - 16 May, 2012
In Kuwait, where all expatriate children can attend only private schools, some parents have been facing trouble within the private school system. Zafar is one of the parents who has had to deal with what he called “forced transfer” and harassment by the school his children attended.
Zafar has two children attending one of the four branches of a known international school in Kuwait. He recently had to transfer both of his children due to what he claims was “a setup” to get his children out of the school.
The parents were previously called in on suspicions that their child was suffering from ADHD, and the school asked the parents to remove the child.
When speaking to the Principal of the school, he reassured them at the time that the school would take care of the problem. But Zafar claims that this incident led to others over the years. “Last year we constantly got complaints that the child needs to be removed.” The parents wrote a letter to the board informing them of the situation and asking for help.
In response, the board advised them to move the child to another branch. “We moved the child to the other branch. The child used to get As and Bs, but at the new branch he began getting Cs and Ds. When his grades began deteriorating, we began pushing him and questioning him.
At the beginning we always thought the problem was with the child. We did our research and all the problems, like ADHD, came up negative,” explained the father of two.
Two semesters into the new school, the administration informed the parents that the child was writing bad words on the bathroom wall; which the child eventually denied.
The teachers then sent a letter telling the parents that a transfer certificate (TC) would be issued in March if the child’s behavior did not improve. “This made me suspicious. I didn’t know why the teacher was talking about TC when it was a small behavioral problem,” said Zafar.
“Everything was good for a while, then all of a sudden we started getting complaints about our younger child too. My wife went back to the school and was told the younger child was beating other children.
She witnessed an interaction between the teacher and the child that she did not agree with, but decided not to speak up. Like most parents, we did not want to make problems with them because our children are studying there, so we kept quiet,” explained Zafar. On the 21 March the parents received a call to inform them that the eldest child had preformed badly, and he would be issued a TC.
“This was the 21st of March. The school started on April 1st. Where were we going to take him?” asked Zafar. The teacher insisted that they had already agreed that they would issue a TC, but the parents understood that the TC would only apply if there was another problem with the child’s behavior. “When we went down to the school the next week to get the grades of the children, we saw that both of my son’s grades were withheld.
They would only give us the grades if we took the forced TC. I think the whole thing was framed. If you go to the school you will see that the teachers and the students are from the same community, basically all connected, or else the parents pay more money to get their child in. It’s all planned,” said Zafar.
The parents have filed a complaint at the Ministry of Education and are going through the proper channels to contest the TC. “As a parent, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for months until the Ministry of Education made the decision on the fate of my children. I had to literally beg the ministry to get my children into any school.
The children had to change school and reexamine where they were not able to perform well enough, and are forced to repeat the grade.
“The whole syllabus changed on the children, the school’s mechanisms are different than the one they are used to, so they failed the examination. Our younger child never had problems with his grades, but now he has to repeat,” explained Zafar. “Many parents face this kind of harassment, but they stay quiet because they don’t want to cause harm to their children and they will have a hard time being accepted in a new school. The parents don’t have any protection against this process.
More of the same Paul, another parent of a child that was attending a branch of the same school, tells of a similar situation he had to endure. “The Principal called us into the school and told us we have to remove our daughter because she was not performing well. The Principal at the time was not helpful at all, and was “a bit arrogant”. I don’t think bad grades is a reason to kick a student out. The school should be working harder to help the child get better grades,” explains Paul.
Paul thinks that this took place because his daughter would be entering the 12th grade and the final grades of that year would be published and the school only wanted to keep the students that had really good grades. “It wasn’t fair that they were taking our child out instead of doing their job, but we wanted to avoid the headache and simply took the transfer certificate and found a new school for her. Like Zafar’s sons, Paul’s daughter had a hard time adjusting to the new school and new environment. “My daughter had to make new friends and get used to a new system of teaching. It was a hard year for her,” the father recalls.
The school’s side
However, according to an official from the school, the transfer requirement is related to discipline. “As per the Ministry of Education, we are not allowed to terminate children’s school enrolment without giving two or three notices. After taking two disciplinary action notices, we ask the parents to take the TC (transfer certificate),” explains Vijay who is from the board of trustees at this international school. “Before the TC, we contact the parents and explain to them what is happening. By the third time we tell them to take the TC, and we inform the Ministry of Education that we have asked the parents to take the TC. If the parents have any complaints or dispute the decision, we send our representative to the MoE,” says Vijay of the process used to issue TCs.
“For example, if the child is not obeying the teachers we call the parents. If its normal or small things we do not call the parents. We have children and we are parents and we know kids are sometimes naughty. But things like smoking is not acceptable. We recently had a TC case in the school. We got letters from the parents saying they will make changes, letters from the Principal and other teachers. After all these steps we still couldn’t adjust, then we asked to them to take the TC and go; it’s the last step,” insists Vijay.
He, however, did not give a clear response if whether grades are one of the reasons children can be asked to leave. His response was: “in normal cases we will not disturb the parents, but if behavior is not at all acceptable, if other children are disturbed and other parents and teachers are disturbed, then we ask them to do it.” “There are some transfers that take place every year. Some are because the parents have lost their jobs or are leaving the country. But when it comes to a TC due to disciplinary problems, only about two or three a year out of about 7,000 students,” explains Vijay.
“Schools are educational institutions that teach students. There is an unwritten contract between the parents and the schools that this institution will provide education until the final year; even if they are private schools,” explains legal advisor, Osama Ameen. Applying this logic, he says that the school should not be allowed to kick the child out “unless there are real reasons to do so. These reasons include harm to another student, but the school should take prior steps before taking this decision because removing a student from a school is a very serious punishment.”
“There are some parents that registered their kids in private schools who eventually asked for a transfer. The parents filed a case against the school and won,” says Ameen. The verdict for the cases against the schools stated that the institutions did not have the right to remove them, even if the student was performing badly. Ameen explains that private schools do not function like private companies. “Even though they are private schools, they are not free to completely make all their decisions. So, for example, when we decided to increase school fees the Department of Private Education at the MoE did not allow us to do so. This department is responsible for the private schools and sets the rules,” Ameen says.
“If a school decides to remove a child without proper evidence of harm, this would be illegal. It would be an even more critical situation if the school decided to remove them during a period where other schools were not accepting new students. This would make them lose a whole year. So the parents have the right to complain, file a case and seek retribution,” says Ameen.