The story you are about to read is real and the editor of DubaiChronicle.com has seen evidence justifying it.
The teacher-student harassment happened during the first half of 2011 at Repton Dubai primary school, called at that time “Prep School”. The principals of Repton school in Dubai, few employees at KHDA and the owner of the facility, Evolvence Capital has been notified, but none of them have initiated any actions until this moment. A word of apology to the student and his parents was neither expressed, nor written yet.
DubaiChronicle.com publicizes this hardly imaginable in a modern-day story with the aim to alert parents about wrong practices and teachers’ unprofessional behavior. Having an example, provides a base for comparison that can enable parents to recognize harassment at school in early stages and prevent it.
Students have the right to a safe, secure, welcoming learning environment in every school around the world. Public, charity, government and private educational institutions are expected to provide and protect that granted right. The expectations of parents towards private schools are even higher, as a high standard and quality of education comes at a high price that should be justified. Repton school in Dubai is well know for its exceptionally high tuition fees in the range from AED45,000 to AED85,000. Parents who pay such amounts for education on annual basis, usually can’t imagine that teachers-students harassment can be even discussed on the premisses of a top private school.
Harassment is any kind of behavior, comment or act that is hurtful, humiliating, degrading or offensive to another person. Primary school children are often not even aware of the meaning of the word, while the majority of parents can’t imagine that it could happen to their child.
Indicators of harassment may be obvious, if you are equipped with knowledge, or at least have read a little about it. For example, your child may have told you about a problem at school. However, harassment can be also less obvious or hidden. The following could be signs that your child is being harassed by teachers or by students at school:
- Is your child complaining of being poorly treated?
- Have you noticed signs of changed behavior? Sleeplessness? Anxiety?
- Is your child afraid to leave the house or go to school?
- Is your child talking about dropping out while remaining vague about the reasons.
- Is your child talking about responding to other students behaviors in a way that may result in the school taking disciplinary action against your child?
- Have your child’s grades dropped dramatically?
Looking at an example from Dubai’s Repton “Prep” school, we will follow the parent’s account of events that describe a long-lasting school harassment, initiated by teachers against a Year 6 student. The identity of the parent and the student is not revealed in order to protect their future experience in Dubai’s private schools.
Dubai Chronicle: Please tell us in few words what exactly happened to convince you that your child is being harassed by teachers at school.
Parent: Back in 2009, we decided to enroll our child at Repton school, because we would like him to receive competitive European education. At the time, the school administration told us that he should skip one year (he completed a grade 3), because the Year 4 was currently full, and he should start Year 5. There was an admission test, for which we have paid AED1000. The admission officer, Ahmed Sabawi called me afterwards and told me that the Math results of our child are weak, but the school will provide learning support and he will catch up. Later, I have found out that Repton school does not have learning support unit or even learning support strategy. The same admission officer, Ahmed Sabawi, now in October 2011 told me that he decided to place our child in a year higher, because, “frankly he is quite tall”. Many students at Repton Dubai have skipped a school year, as I later have learned from other parents.
Anyway, we were very exited to join Reton school at the time. Unfortunately, not much of a great experience was there. Our child had difficulties to settle in the beginning and was most of the time speechless at school, not responding even to teachers. Some of the British children insulted him, as neither the teacher, nor the students were told that the child was pushed to skip a school year. Later, some parents complained that Repton school accepts all kinds of students whose parents can pay and even dropouts from other schools are welcomed. So, during the first term of Year 5, the child was coming home hurt by silly comments of other students. This never happened before at the previous school he attended, which is a trilingual Lebanese managed school, here in Dubai. The teachers at Repton did not do anything to sort this out, except stating it as a fact.
During the same time, we become deeply concerned about the education process, as the school didn’t provide text books, the class teacher was frequently absent and many school days were filled with movie screenings and other leisure activities, which is not what was going on in the previous school, neither in my school many years ago. I also have read many negative comments on expatwoman.com from other parents.
So, I began visiting the campus more often, talking to teachers, writing emails, posting on the Facebook wall of Repton school. None of these actions was taken seriously. There was only one teacher-parents meeting during the whole academic school year. Our child had not received learning support at school, neither he was treated better, nor he moved forwards in his academic studies. The only response, I received was that the class teacher, Miss Michelle Keys, began sending me emails with links to many websites where we were supposed to find the lesson. Here is worth mentioning some exceptionally odd methods of teaching at Repton school in Dubai. For example, the science teacher’s (Miss Vicky Knott) idea of teaching was to give students an empty sheet and a title, asking them to write their own lessons. Most of the teachers have the “Do it yourself” attitude! During the two years, our child attended Repton school, only three teachers put real efforts to teach lessons and mark homework.
Dubai Chronicle: So, why do you think that your child was harassed?
Parent: During the first year, it didn’t come to my mind that he was harassed. We were just working harder at home for him to catch up with the new material as off course skipping a full academic year means that you have to fill up a learning gap.
Dubai Chronicle: How did the child respond?
Parent: He didn’t make any friends at school. His exam results were very poor. He began expressing dislike towards the school and the other students. He also became extremely nervious and even occasionally verbally abusive. You can be surprised what words a student can learn at that school.
Dubai Chronicle: So what did you do?
Parent: We toke the blame on us… We were also angry at the administration officer for pushing the child to skip a year, because initially we didn’t had such intentions. So, we tried to calm the child at home, toke him on a great holiday and enrolled him in after-school activities where he enjoyed being with other kids, who liked him.
Dubai Chronicle: What makes you think that your child was harassed at Repton school?
Parent: During the beginning of the first term of the next year (second in the school), I was again irritated with the science teacher, Miss Vicky Knott, who again was giving students empty sheets asking them to write up their lessons. I wrote an email to the Year 6 head, Mr. Alex Paltos, to which he responded by writing back in precisely two minutes time, saying that the child would be put on a “Behavior Repot Card”. I quickly dismissed him in an email, pointing out that this is just his response to my complaint and there is no reason for it, as until that moment the child had no behavior problems or bad crosses. After, the teachers called a meeting with me in a week time. I went together with the child, as I wanted to put them face to face. It happened, another teacher – Mr. Pierce, who had been sitting in the same office with Mr. Paltos, just gave the child 4 or 5 bad crosses during the same week, after I complained from their colleague. So, we spoke and I have raised our concerns again. In a week time, the child was put on a “Bad Behavior Card”. This means that every teacher in each different subject would grade his behavior by the end of a period, while parents must review and sign the “Bad Report Card” at home. This is very humiliating for the child, as other students also see it .
Parent: This is just the beginning. The conflicts escalated, and the situation turned from bad to worse. After the first report card , there was another one – prolonged for five weeks, because I went to KHA and complained. I had been constantly complaining about the education process to teachers and principals, even to KHD. What else would you do if your child had been moved six times during the academic year between level “A” and level “B” in Arabic?Now, when our child is in a really proper school, we realize what difference schooling makes to his allover well-being. At Repton, teachers or students made him cry every second day, without a reason or with imaginary one. As for example, Mr. Pierce gave him a bad cross for opening the door in front of other teachers. He was also punished by degrading his class work and scoring his exams lower. For example, the science teacher will give him bellow average mark, while his work was far better than the homework of most of the other students.
Parent: Now, at another British school, our child is second best in class, because he works really hard at home. He even was chosen to submit nomination prospect for H.H.Sheikh Hamdan’s Award for Academic Excellence.
Dubai Chronicle: Why do you think that the teachers purposely mistreated your child?
Parent: I have complained too many times from them and they became irritated. Because I am not within their reach, their anger was passed to the child. The problem, in my opinion, is that Repton school hires all kinds of people. The owner had not appointed a recruitment agency to select professional and experienced teachers for the school, but actually posts job adds on Facebook and other local chat forums. Some of the teachers are poorly qualified, while others often were often absent. So, me complaining about them not doing their job, it felt threatening to their lifestyles and salaries. You know, Dubai is a great place to live – under a the sun, whole year long.
Dubai Chronicle: How did your child felt?
Parent: During the second term of the academic 2010/2011, he didn’t want to go to school any more. Every second day, there would be problem: either with the rest of the students or with the teachers. I even stopped him for a week, with the aim of taking the teacher’s attention away from him and calm him down. But right on the first day he returned to school, he had been taken out of the classroom by Mr.Brown, pastoral head at the time, without any reason and he has spent the school days crying in the principals office, deprived from academic lessons. We did not pay huge amounts in school fees for that kind of treatment, let alone unsatisfactory academic performance…
Mr. Khalid Al Muhairy, the responsible governor of Repton school in Dubai commented in a written email to DubaiChronicle.com that “it is not fair that extremely crazy parents try to arrest the development of the school.” His remark suggests that he views parents barely as funding source for his ambitions, which may be understandable after reading about his background of a fund raser on the internet.
However, the same “extremely crazy parents” are paying the extremely high tuition fees Repton school charges and therefore they have high expectations. Supporting somebody’s business surely is not among their priorities.