As a small bit of background I studied early childhood education and then did the PME. I qualified in 2016 and got a job working in a school I loved.I had always wanted to teach in the UAE so in December of 2018 I decided I would take a career break and go to work in the UAE.
I applied to lots of schools through agencies and friends. In the end I was offered two jobs, 1 in Sharjah and 1 in Abu Dhabi. I decided that Abu Dhabi seemed like somewhere I would prefer as there was more of social life, from what I had researched.
I was so excited and couldn’t wait to for the adventure to start as everywhere online was full of positive stories. But what lay ahead was not like anything I had read..
The first issue I faced was paperwork. Before travelling I needed to get certain documents attested in Ireland. This cost me the best part of €400, but was a necessity for getting a visa. However,when I arrived in the UAE I was informed that I would have to get certain documents attested again in the UAE, costing a further €100. But only some of the new staff in the school had to do this.
The next paperwork issue was my working visa. My flight to Abu Dhabi was delayed by the school for a week because my work visa had not yet been granted. This meant that I arrived late for the beginning of the year. However when the school did fly me out I was brought on a tourist visa, as were the majority of new teachers who had flown a week previous. It then took over a month for my visa, medical and Emirates ID to get sorted. So basically I was working and living in the country illegally.
As with most schools in the UAE accomodation was provided with the school I was working with. I was sharing with 2 other girls in a very big, spacious apartment. That sounds great, but the reality was not.
When we arrived at the apartment had nothing. The school’s contract had said it would be a fully furnished apartment. We had no tables, chairs, couches, cutlery, utensils, pots etc. We each had a bed, a pillow and a blanket. The other girls had wardrobes but I was not so lucky.
We had to buy everything for the kitchen in order to be able to cook. However this gave another issue as we then realised that our house was not connected to the gas. We spoke to the staff member in the school who was in charge of housing and she informed us that ‘soon’ we would have gas and I would have a wardrobe. We were provided with couches and a table after almost 2 weeks, but 3 weeks later we still had no gas and I had no wardrobe.
As a result of these issues I could not pack as was living out of a bag. We also couldn’t eat in the apartment so we were forced to buy food out everyday for dinner. This meant we were spending a lot of money. The school did give us a refund of 200dhs each (€50) to compensate for the expense of buying food and fitting a kitchen, but this didn’t even cover half of what we had spent.
The majority of Irish teachers come to the UAE to teach in private schools and I was the same. I was teaching in kindergarten which meant that children are coming to school at 3 years old. This is very difficult as children are not ready for school so this meant lots of tears and children falling asleep.
The school day begins at 7:15am and teaching finishes at 1:30pm but children are still in the class at 3pm as parents have not collected them. I have seen children sleep on tables everyday and parents be angry that the child is asleep.
Another issue is the workload for the children. The school followed the British curriculum but a year ahead of what it should be. This meant that children were learning phonics, letter formation, number recognition, number formation, shapes, colours and a theme every week. The children have 4 books, and approx. 9 pages to complete each week.
The school are also trying to promote hands on learning but there are little to no resources. In the class there are barely enough toys for all of the children to engage with, there are no art supplies and teachers can not do their own photocopying.
When you pair a young child, a long day, a heavy workload and lack of resources it is clear to see what the working and learning environment is really like.
I know that this all seems very negative but there have been positives. I love working with children and although the children in the UAE do come with their own issues I love working with them.
I have made some really great friends. I have stayed out of the large group as I don’t feel like I connect with a lot of them. But the friends I have made will be friends for life I am sure.
I have had new experiences and travelled. The culture in the UAE is very different to Ireland and this has pushed me to do and see new things. Also because of where the UAE is located it is ideal to travel to places that may be out of reach if you stay in Ireland.
I would encourage anyone to research working in the UAE and to give it a try because you’ll never know if you don’t. But I think it is important to know that there are two sides to every story and not everything is instagram perfect.
The teacher who is leaving after a few months.