KUWAIT CITY, May 18: A total of 77 Palestinian teachers chosen by the Ministry of Education to teach in public schools have rejected the contracts because the salary offered to them was almost half of what they expected. According to a report published on gulfnews.com Thursday, the ministry’s plan was to hire 180 teachers for the next academic year and a delegation from the ministry traveled to Palestine where they conducted tests and interviews to choose from a list of 1,173 teachers including 425 women.
However, the ministry recruited only 103 as others refused to work for a monthly salary of KD 480, which is way below the KD 800 salary they expected. Those who accepted the contracts will teach Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geology. This is the first of such recruitment after the country lifted last year a 26-year ban on hiring Palestinian teachers.
Palestinian teachers made remarkable contributions to the development of education in the country, particularly in the 1960s – the early days of building the nation. However, their status plummeted in 1990 in the wake of a deep Kuwaiti-Palestinian rift following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain, which was supported by Palestinian leaders.
Kuwaitis felt betrayed by the pro- Saddam attitude of the Palestinians so following its liberation in February 1991, Kuwait cut off ties with the PLO, froze its financial backing and expelled a large number of Palestinians from the country. The bilateral relations started to improve in December 2004 when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas apologized for the Palestinian position on the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
Relations have since evolved and Kuwait repeatedly announced multimillion dollar donations for development projects in Palestine. In April 2016, the Education Ministry announced its plan to recruit hundreds of Palestinians to teach Mathematics and Science in public schools. These teachers will be hired from Palestine or locally from the Palestinian community in the country, it added.
Nevertheless, as the Education Ministry announced its decision to end the hiatus, its interior counterpart said the Palestinian passport is not enough to grant them residency permit that will allow them to stay and work in the country. The legal hurdle was cleared one month later after the ministry said it would request Palestinians to present their passports as well as their laissez-passers when they apply for the residency permits. “We need the laissez-passer because it allows us to deport the expatriate in case he breaks the laws of Kuwait,” a ministry official said.
“It is the guarantee that we need as a security department so that we do not encounter issues we faced when dealing with Palestinians carrying Syrian, Jordanian or Egyptians documents, who were not accepted back on deportation by the countries that gave them the documents.” But as Palestinians will be back in Kuwaiti classrooms, a lawmaker has called for replacing expatriate teachers with Kuwaiti nationals in a bid to reduce the number of foreigners in the country. MP Osama Al Shaheen said there was an urgent need to address the demographic imbalance and suggested that removing foreign teachers would contribute to it.
“The number of foreigners in Kuwait, according to the figures released in April is 3,064,193, and they represent 69 per cent of the total population,” he said. “The figures indicate that the country has 71,014 teachers out of which 46,079 are Kuwaiti nationals. It means that there are 24,935 Arab and foreign teachers which can be replaced by Kuwaiti men and women,” the lawmaker said at a press conference on Tuesday.