COVID Conflict: Breaking My New Contract

Last week I received confirmation my work Visa had been approved and processed. This news, from my new school in India, came with a reminder telling me the report date for new staff was set for late August, less than 2 short months away. But with daily world health news blaring negatively, I feel apprehensive to say the least. Yesterday, 46,000+ new COVID cases were reported in India, not including the thousands of cases health officials say go unreported each day.

In truth, my conscience doesn’t want to leave the school hanging, but if the new COVID case count stays the same or gets even worse, I’m planning to bail on the Contract. What else can I conceivably do? We all know that the school would not have any hesitation whatsoever letting me go at the the very, very last minute if it was faltering. Yet, still I’m feeling conflicted. Should I tell them what I’m thinking?

A sprinkling of ISR School Reviews report schools still rescinding Contracts due to the unforeseen rise of the COVID variant. If schools can break Contract at this late date due to COVID, so should teachers have the right to do the same. My feeling is, schools, along with recruiting agencies, don’t see it this way. My Contract contains a force majeure clause to cover unforeseen circumstances. However, on close examination, the wording implies only the school can exercise that right. No surprise there!

My question is: If I don’t get on the plane in August, will I be killing all subsequent chances to teach overseas? Will future potential employers and the big recruiters understand why I did not go, or will I be banned forever? Anyone else in this predicament? To quote a member of the ISR Forum: A Contract is not a suicide pact.

Please scroll down to participate in this ISR Discussion

39 thoughts on “COVID Conflict: Breaking My New Contract

  1. Many people make the mistake to believe the figures these countries publish about their Covid infection rates. It is a historically known fact, whenever governments can get away with lies, they will try. Especially in countries where journalism is under the thumb of whatever authoritarian regime exists. Even more likely they will follow down the path of misinformation if the actual numbers would make them look really bad as it would later provide ground for discontent among the population.

    The numbers can be also manipulated by a deliberately poor track and trace. Some European countries were doing it to mask the level of their failure from the population. If European countries were doing it, I can assure you, this method is not going to be ignored within countries where freedom of speech is being attacked.

    Take everything with a pinch of salt. These numbers can only be looked at as guidance for Covid trends rather than actual and factual numbers.

    Like

  2. My wife and I were teaching at a 2nd tier British International school on the outskirts of East Bangkok. We have 4 young children. We were communicating with SMT, they were responding but didn’t provide any support. We had been online on and off since Christmas and had spent 3 weeks after Easter online. The school expected us to work full time and manage 3 of our children online, and employ nannies to look after our baby and 3 very young children.

    We broke contract, the school were angry, but their true colors were out in the open. It was the best decision. In these unprecedented times you must look after yourself. I don’t men hurt others and be disrespectful, but put yourself first. These schools have no integrity, we were not important to our school in any way other than work, nothing. Do what is right for you, if things get worse you WILL be on your own.

    Like

  3. Be very wary of Thailand where there are few vaccines and the only ones offered are the Chinese variety. Thailand has a high rate of the Delta variant against which Sinovac is useless as it only has a 50% efficacy. The Government is claiming alternative vaccines will only be available during the end of the year. Private hospitals are currently not allowed to offer vaccinations or indeed buy any reputable varieties such as Pfizer or Moderna. The government continually lies about the vaccination program.

    Like

    1. It’s such a mess in Bangkok, I really can’t see a way out of it – the junta seem hell bent on breaking the back of the country, of course the schools will make out like everything’s fine and will be back to normal in September but the situation is far worse than it’s ever been before here. We’re on the road to disaster… Sadly.

      Like

  4. Left India after teaching online in isolation for 12 month from an apartment block that had new Covid cases daily and no vaccinations or proper social distancing or masks at that point. I had my salary reduced by 30% and only got paid till the last day of school and not for the vacation. Be wary of Indian schools as they have a terrible reputation and treat local staff badly on the whole. Expats tend to be window-dressing for parents.I would never recommend anyone taking a teaching position there. They would break your contract faster than you could say Namaste if it suited them.

    Like

  5. I broke my first contract this past year. I contacted my associate at SA and explained in detail what was going on. He told me he put my complaints on record, and recommended I have others contact them to show that the school should be banned from SA. He told me that in future interviews I should be vague about why I quit, but that if they had further concerns about it to have them contact my associate to have him explain how terrible the situation was.
    He told me it’s mainly about how other schools would perceive my profile, more than how SA would perceive me for quitting.
    Bottom line though is, read contracts very carefully and insist things are changed that you don’t agree with. Not because some authority of that country is going to help you if it’s broken, or that it will force the school to uphold it, but you will at least have the conversation on record with them, you will both know where you stand on things, and it might be evidence to support your case if SA decides to jerk you around.
    For me, I’m not signing anything until I’m fully vaccinated, and there’s something in the contract specifically about Covid (boosters, health coverage, lockdown, etc).

    Like

  6. Until last December, I worked at a fabulous school in a major city in South India. I made my decision to extend my contract in Nov 2019, then watched as the borders shut down and I became effectively trapped in India, unable to return to my homeland or to travel anywhere else within country.
    What followed was 8 months of online teaching in a country with unreliable internet. Teachers and students were often unable to log in for online classes, and student interest lagged and numbers dwindled, as expats on company contracts were whisked home to safer situations in their countries of origin. No one was enjoying the educational experience as government guidelines mandated only 80 min of daily online instruction time per day for elementary students. Parents struggled with the challenges of splitting internet signals and tech devices between 3 kids and 1 or 2 working parents. Indian families. all of whom were used to coping with a staff of cooks, drivers and nannies, were overwhelmed with the demands of running a large household in a total lockdown without any help. Educational expectations were still just as high as before Covid, but the home learning environment was often not supportive enough to ensure results. Of course, these conditions exist in other parts of the world, including Europe and North America, but to a far lesser degree.
    My contract stipulated that, should I break contract once travel was again possible, I would not only have to pay my own way home but also my international shipping fees and repayment of those they paid for me when I arrived, I would also have to carry the rental balance on my apartment. When I pointed out that fewer and fewer students were attending my classes every week and that, as a single subject teacher, my role was becoming almost superfluous, they opted to retain me to uphold the reputation of the school and the appearance of normality.
    While living in India, I received speedy, affordable health care at a number of private hospitals. Indian doctors are world class, as evidenced by the healthy vacation/surgery industry. At these facilities you can see an orthopaedic surgeon trained in the UK or North American within a day of booking, but remember it is not the doctors who will be delivering treatment. You are at the mercy of the nursing staff and administration, none of whom have likely experienced healthcare outside of India. There is a vastly different approach to lifespan and duty of care. Even under normal circumstances, I did not trust that medical treatment plans would be carried out with full efficacy. As another teacher responded, it is a highly corrupt environment where finances and personal reputations trump empathy and human dignity. It was no surprise to me when the healthcare system collapsed under the spring resurgence of Covid numbers. They will be many months climbing out of this crisis.
    With pressing family health issues in my home country, I broke contract in December and returned to North America. I was able to secure a six month contract at a good school close to family so I could help out. Unable to obtain a renewal answer on this contract until mid-August, I sought jobs in private schools within nearby cities and signed a long term contract with a new school within a few weeks of searching. Breaking contract did not harm my job prospects within my home country, but I anticipate it will come up should I ever return to international teaching. Everyone here completely understood my situation; within India they made light of a situation which bloomed into something far more dangerous.
    Breaking contract cost me $25,000, but it saved my life and that of my dependents. Colleagues who chose to wait out their contracts are now trapped within India, unable to gain entry to their home countries due to Covid restrictions. Last year other colleagues were unable to either return to their homelands or to enter their new work countries. They were stuck in India without healthcare or housing. Even though the school had long-term rental contracts and housing they were unable to fill since new teachers were unable to enter the country, they refused to let this teacher stay in her apartment to await travel changes. In one situation the employee in question had given eight years of her teaching career to this school. Unbelievable.
    I would strongly urge you to look elsewhere for work this fall.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hear you. You did the right thing. Some recruitment agencies refuse to deal with India due to dodgy contracts and slave-like working conditions.

      Like

    2. Yup. Been there and empathize. They don’t really like expats in India. An African colleague was treated in an appalling racist manner. It is not worth getting trapped there. Some school contracts make you repay them if you leave before the end of your term.

      Like

    3. Indian admin and owners are ruthless and see every teacher as disposable. By quitting, you are regarded as disloyal and will be lucky to even get any kind of reference from the local principal.

      Like

  7. I have given back word on a job in China because it would mean me leaving my spouse and family behind. I felt the school weren’t being very honest when I asked ‘will my dependents be able to get in?’- they quickly dismissed these questions. Having researched myself, there is little to no chance of them making it out anytime soon, and I would not even be able to leave the country to visit them over the holidays once there, so I took the decision to withdraw. Covid is causing no end of issues and this is just one of them.

    Fortunately, as if fated, I managed to secure an even better position in the country I am currently in, in a different school. The person who had previously been appointed had dropped out due to Covid!

    So, the upshot is these are unprecedented times and although withdrawing from my China offer was something I grappled with because I did not want to let anyone down, at the end of the day, you have to consider your own situation and what’s in your best interests because a school wouldn’t think twice to do the same.

    Like

  8. Being in India myself, you have to remember that it is a big country with hotspots within the country. Much like in the USA when NYC was not the place to be a year and a half ago while Idaho had hardly any cases. I’m in Hyderabad and there have never been shortages of hospital beds here. Most of the news is from Dehli, Mumbai, and some other cities. Also as someone said, 46,000 cases out of 1.3 billion are not really that many. The US and UK had more of its population with cases than here. Ask about the particular area you are going to.

    The question of getting another job is a no-brainer. Of course, you would get another job. No one is going to question your not taking a job because of COVID. That’s an advantage to this year. If it isn’t on your CV, how would the next Head even know? You explain the gap was due to COVID and everyone will understand. I had a similar situation happen during the Arab Spring. Turned down last minute a job in the Middle East and no one blinked or ever asked about it.

    Do what is in the best interest of you and your family. The school will carry on either way with or without you. They may not be happy, but there is not much they can do about it.

    Like

    1. Joe, having recently left India everyone of the 200 local teachers from my school lost family member to Covid… so no, it is not “small.”

      Like

  9. From the “force majeure” being added to the contract, this sounds like the very same school that stopped paying contract salary, missed pay date AT LEAST 3 times, lied about setting up vaccination and DID NOT pay final contract monies before teachers left to their new home countries.

    Stay away.

    You will get another international post.

    Like

  10. Do what you think is right. I read an autobiography written by Tony Benn, a now dead socialist MP from the UK. His father gave him a piece of advice, ‘Never wrestle with a chimney sweep’, so, in this case, yes, often schools are very unethical, but it doesn’t mean you should be too.

    Like

  11. I taught internationally for almost 20 years, all over the world. Bottom line: think about what’s best for you since the school certainly doesn’t. There are lots of jobs out there. Get out of the mentality of self sacrifice for the kids. The schools will exploit this. Treat it like a job and seek the best you can find.
    Same goes for (especially) Search Associates.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a horrible experience with Search Associates. I genuinely trusted these people. I am now rebuilding my life after one of the most horrific bullying experiences I have ever endured. These schools are not vetted properly by SA they will do business with criminals or just about anyone, at the expense of good teachers.

      Like

    2. Search Associates works with schools in India that didn’t pay teachers their contract pay. They should have dropped the school, but instead, they continue to place teachers at the school, knowing that they may not get paid…

      Like

  12. I broke contract with a school in China in July of 2019. They had lied about the student population, the classes I would be teaching, the hours required, and the contract was turned over from the original to a Chinese corporation. I’m still teaching internationally and I have no regrets. I’m so glad I wasn’t there during COVID. I have many friends around the world who have also opted out mid-contract. Do want you think is in your best interest and don’t look back.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Having recently left India due to the pandemic and after being cheated on final salary due to Covid economies, I would not advise going there. When things get bad (as you can see from various reviews) local owners twist contracts to suit themselves. In India, there is no social distancing anywhere. Schools are for-profit with private owners and It is all about keeping parents happy who are sick of having their kids at home and want them back in school pronto. regardless of risk to teachers It is not worth getting trapped there or having to risk your life and bailout during the next epidemic – and yes there will be one. It ranks as one of the most corrupt countries in the world including offering fake covid jabs. Bailing now will not impact your future career as professional schools understand changing circumstances during a life-threatening epidemic. Just ask yourself how important your life is to you as Covid is not going away soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am also highly sceptical about for-profit schools. Is the OP’s intended school for-profit, part of a chain, a satellite, not-for-profit? Is there someone from the local & expat staff they can talk to? If a school refuses / sidelines your request to engage in a conversation with one of its teachers working there (not just your future HOD), that might be a sign. If you’ve worked in non-European countries before, India even with covid shouldn’t be terrifying. The school must, however, be prepared to give you lots of examples of how they will support you e.g living accommodations, medical, school hygiene procedures, covid case scenarios in school. If HR aren’t being helpful, can they talk to someone else who would be able to help with these queries. At the end, you need to do what you think is safest, and a good school, will help assuage any fears rather than brush them off.

      Like

  14. I am currently in India. I did not leave for the summer. Things have changed considerably from a few months ago. Having said that 46000 cases is really nothing in a country 1.3 billion people. Do the maths and the comparisons.

    I am quite comfortable and feel very safe. Our school opened for several months before the current wave started. Having operated for months without a single transmission at school was very reassuring.

    My suggestion is to talk to the head of your school, talk to teachers from neighboring schools. Get a first hand understanding of the situation. The media feeds of generating fear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Teacher friends in India inform me that schools do not disclose covid cases amongst staff and students. I very much doubt there are “no” cases. You should check to see if all the ancillary workers are having regular tests…of course there are transmissions.

      Like

    2. The “perfectly safe” environment of your school in India, is highly suspect.
      My school suffered hospitalized teachers, sick students and deaths of family members, by the day.
      It was scary and very real.

      Like

  15. Just be straightforward with what you need and what the school needs:-) I feel for you, not a good time to be involved in the international teaching circuit. Still, it is a stimulating lifestyle my family and I sometimes miss. USA rocks as well.

    Like

  16. In general, with or without the pandemic, I think schools will always have a different perspective on contracts as it is ultimately a business and at the end of the day, they want to guarantee that they have teachers to fill their classes. Whether or not your school/admin are respectful, understanding and supportive of whatever decision you make, that is on them and not on you. First and foremost, you are responsible for your safety and well-being, however way that is.

    This is not a ‘normal’ school year, so I think it’s understandable that people are apprehensive. In terms of future employers, you’ll eventually find one that will listen to your situation/perspective and if they are the ‘right’ one, then they’ll see past the complications of the pandemic and truly value your asset as a teacher.

    Like

  17. I’ve just left India at the normal end of my contract after six years. I was there through the lockdowns and taught most of the last 15 months online. It is not a death sentence to go, and depending on the city, there are a lot of options for health care. You will need to wear a mask and be cautious as you would in a lot of places. Get vaccinated, follow good social distancing policies and when this is all over you will be able to explore India in all its many colors and flavors.

    Like

    1. Guess you were nowhere near Dehli and did not see the destitution and death all around.Vaccines are not infallible and the Delta virus (Indian) is the most deadly.

      Like

    2. A fellow teacher almost died of Covid in an India hospital. It shook everyone to the core…no spouse, no family what the hell would happen if she didn’t make it? What a devastating call to make to someone’s family, back home. No, thank you.

      Like

  18. I always tried hard to see my contracts through. I was generally well treated wherever I have been, by some great admins and schools. However, a read through some isr reports show that this is not always the case for all teachers.

    Given the situation with Covid, there is no way in a million years I would go to India. It’s not a death sentence, that’s just a childish heading, but, there are plenty of things that can go wrong heading to a country that has an overwhelmed health system.

    In you shoes, I’d just write a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ letter. Just as they would write to you if they failed to get the re-enrollment figures they hoped for.

    Like

  19. I am sorry to hear you are dealing with what sounds like lots of anxiety.

    My experience may be isolated, but I haven’t found schools or leadership stress over honoring our contracts as much as we stress over completing them. If I had a recruitment representative, I would reach out to start a conversation. I would then reach out to the Head of School to have a conversation. I would use both conversations as an opportunity to collect data on the situation, school safety protocols, and whether I would have health, life, and/or long-term disability insurance immediately upon arrival. Having more information never hurts when making such a difficult decision.

    While chances of dying or experiencing a long-term disability may be low, no job is worth either. Concurrently, we all need to keep in mind that schools would post your job the next day if you couldn’t complete work tasks.

    Like

  20. So, you push through and go and will feel anxious and ill at ease. Honestly, I think most admin would prefer not to make a person stick it out for the sake of it, as it will impact their teaching so much. Being vaccinated will not make that much difference if hospitals fill up like they did in the last wave. It impacts all aspects of everyday life. I say follow your gut and be open with the school now.

    Like

  21. I personally know two people who signed contracts, arrived in country (one in Central America and one in Asia) and left the next day! Both are still teaching internationally. I don’t know how. Their reasons were, “It’s not Europe” (Uh, no. Did you look at a map?) and “There are too many people here.” (Uh, yeah. This is Shanghai.) They left within 24 hours of landing before even setting foot in the school. And both are still teaching internationally. They either lied or the schools didn’t care.

    Like

    1. Wow…I remember when I arrived in Manila in mid 90s. Same scenario with 2 couples. One spouse left and one spouse stayed. The drive from NAIA to Makati can be overwhelming. Adapting to a new culture is an art and a science:-)

      Like

  22. A contract is not a suicide pact????? 😳😳😳😳
    I don’t understand your thinking. ‘46,000 new cases’ does not equal 46,000 deaths nor does it even equal 46,000 hospitalisations.
    Perhaps a more justifiable reason for not going is that you may have very few students show up for class.

    Like

  23. There us absolutely no way I would go to India right now, no matter the contract or vaccination status. You’re risking your life for absolutely nothing.

    You’ll be fine, career-wise. Anyone worth working for would understand someone pulling out of the world’s covid hotspot right now. Absolutely not worth the frankly insane risk.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Depends on the type of vaccine and its efficacy as vaccines are not infallible with the ever-evolving covid variants.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.