Arab News Story of Tue Dec 29, 2009
Row at Girls Teachers College sparks faculty, student protests
Sarah Abdullah | Arab News
JEDDAH: A row between the director of Al-Faisal Academy in Riyadh, the agent they hired and teachers working at the Girls Teachers College, which is under King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), has led to the sackings, and resignations, of English language teachers as well as student protests.
The protesting teachers say that they signed a contract with Mohammed Yasin, an agent hired by Al-Faisal Academy, to work as English language instructors in a preparatory English language program for recipients of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.
Part of the row is over payment. The contract states that they would be paid their salaries on the fourth week of each month. However, they were only paid for two weeks last Wednesday and promised the remaining two weeks salary on Saturday.
“I was expecting to be paid on Saturday but was met instead by controversy,” Faculty Supervisor at the Girls Teachers College Sharia Walker told Arab News.
According to various sources, the row allegedly erupted when Abdulaziz Al-Rafi, executive director of Al-Faisal Academy, visited the college with the intention of immediately meeting the female teachers working at the institution, located off Khaled bin Walid Street.
Yasin said he refused, claiming Al-Rafi had no jurisdiction in demanding to see the teachers and that his contract with Al-Faisal Academy stipulated anyone could only coordinate with employees of the teachers’ college through him. Walker said that she and the other teachers knew that if they decided to meet with Al-Rafi they would be in breach of their contracts.
“The teachers know they are not allowed to have contact with anyone except Yasin or work for any third party, so this is why we refused,” Walker said. To settle the issue, Walker said she decided to meet with Al-Rafi as a representative of the faculty. “At the meeting, I introduced myself and my position at the college to Al-Rafi who said he did not want to meet with me or anyone, only all the faculty members,” she said.
According to other sources he then arrived with a letter that severed the deal with Yasin and stated all faculty members would be paid directly. He then allegedly sent secretaries to each class asking teachers who had initially dealt with Yasin to sign. The sources added that those who did not agree were told to consider themselves terminated.
“Many of the teachers, because they were teaching, disregarded the letter until after class. However those teachers who did not immediately sign were given black X’s next to their names and were told they were terminated and were not going to be paid the rest of their salaries,” Walker said. Another senior administrator, Ajwad Kurdi, said she was astonished at what has happened. “I was in Riyadh at the time and had no knowledge of a problem. I received a call from Yasin who told me to go to the girls college immediately so I went there directly from the airport.
“Once I got there I tried to meet the executive director of Al-Faisal Academy,” Kurdi said, adding that the reason he gave for not meeting her was because he had heard her and Walker had resigned on Wednesday, which she added was not true.
Walker added that the teachers drafted a letter to the Minister of Higher Education Khaled Al-Anqari explaining the problems but have yet to receive a reply.
Yasin had also offered to release the contract he had with Al-Rafi and allow him to sign new contracts with the teachers provided that Al-Rafi honored his previous contract to pay the teachers up to Dec. 23, which is the end of the program.
Arab News tried to contact Al-Rafi and Al-Faisal Academy but they refused to comment.
Since Monday morning Saudi teachers have now arrived to teach, but instead of having 25 students per teacher as usual, they have merged as many as 100 students per class. Students have protested by refusing to attend classes.