Teaching Candidate in Hijab Claims Discrimination by Kuwaiti School

October 19, 2017
Fouzia Khatun on Instagram

..When Fouzia Khatun applied to teach at the English Playgroup, Kuwait, she thought wearing a hijab and sharing common religious beliefs would help her to be a good fit for the job. To her complete dismay, she later received an email from Caroline Brooks of the HR department, saying her employment depended on a willingness to remove her hijab while teaching: “…parents do not want their children taught by covered teachers, this is an English school.” 

..On her Instagram page Fouzia displays the email from Caroline Brooks. The school denies the allegations, saying Caroline Brooks was not in their employ. Later, however, they changed their statement reporting, Caroline Brooks has been “disciplined.” The school asserts that Fouzia’s application for employment was not accepted due to her use of social media and that action has been taken against her for “slanderous comments.”

..…The English Playgroup issued the following statement:
“The English Playgroup and Primary Schools employ qualified teachers from all nationalities, religions and backgrounds who serve students as excellent and caring teachers. Allegations of discrimination against hijab-wearing staff are untrue. Our schools proudly employ many hijab wearing teachers and administrators across our schools. The allegations against the school have been disseminated by an unsuccessful overseas job applicant who was refused employment because of inappropriate behavior as illustrated on her social media platform. The opinions expressed by a new employee in the HR department are against company policy and necessary disciplinary action has been taken.”

..Fouzia is quoted as saying that her Instagram page was private before this incident, so a claim of “inappropriate behavior” on social media is unfounded. The English Playgroup later released photos on Instagram of teachers wearing a hijab while on the job. Fouzia is suing the English playgroup.

..ISR Asks: Is this an isolated incident? Was it simply a mistake on the part of an HR employee? To your knowledge, do Muslim women experience this type of discrimination in Kuwait and other Islamic countries when applying for jobs in Western-oriented schools and companies?

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Human Rights Vs. The Rights of International Teachers

May 11, 2017


An Open Letter to ISR

Dear ISR, I’m writing in regards to the International Educators’ Bill of Rights mentioned in your article, Don’t Bring Me Down. I fail to see how the Bill of Rights can be applied to all schools, worldwide, especially when some schools are located in countries with very different ideas about “rights” than we in the West.

Human rights, including employment rights, are determined by the laws of the country in which you reside and teach, and they are not all the same. For example, there is an Arab charter on human rights, which has its own interpretations on racism, and an Asian version on human rights, where, for example, ‘individuals must put the state’s rights before their own’. How would it be possible for an International Educators’ Bill of Rights to supersede such documents?

For me as a westerner living in the middle east, I find Arabic values incomprehensible and totally incompatible with my education and upbringing; there is a gulf between myself and management which cannot be bridged. As a fourteen-year-old studying history I learned how ‘nepotism’ was a terrible evil. I still think that way. Yet, in my present adopted country, this is the only way to get promoted; experience appears to count for very little.

I feel what might be more useful than the International Educators’ Bill of Rights is if recruiting agencies would require schools to provide realistic information on the culture surrounding each school. This could include such info as the country’s basic laws and regulations, and the area’s overall approach to human rights. How is their treatment of children, of foreigners, the disabled, females, the extremely poor and the uber rich? The info should also include the make-up of each schools’ ownership and management, thereby getting a much clearer picture of the mindset of who you’ll be working for on a day-to-day basis.

For example:  A school organized and managed by the American Embassy school would be noted as such and considered to be run by an American administration. A school owned by a host-national and administered by a host-national director/principal would be designated as such. In this way teachers could understand in advance what sort of experience they were signing on for, not to stereotype schools or countries, but as a good start to knowing if a school is the right choice for you.

I find the International Educators’ Bill of Rights a wonderful document. I am, however, not convinced it’s applicable to all schools in all locations around the world.

ISR Response. We agree that individual countries have their own specific code for Human Rights, including employment rights. We do feel, however, that no educator goes overseas with the intent to be taken advantage of under provisions set forth by law, or through loopholes in a country’s laws.

ISR considers an International School that hires staff from Western countries to be an island unto itself,
and as such, will treat their educators as would a school in the West. ISR feels strongly that a school which cannot, or will not, stick to the basic principles of the International Educators’ Bill of Rights is a school to be avoided.

ISR asks: What is YOUR opinion on this topic?

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ISR Note:
This blog was high jacked by a person with a personal agenda. We have removed all comments from this blog.  We apologize to those contributors whose comments were in earnest and on topic.  Posting is open and we invite you to contribute to the topic.


The International Political Climate vs. You

February 2, 2017

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..Major developments in international political climates are highlighted on news stations daily, along with scenes of millions marching in protest against seemingly rash changes and unrealistic restrictions toward others. The citizens of Earth seem united in the demand to have their leaders represent each and every one of us fairly, whether it’s for the rights of immigrants, equality for women, non-discrimination towards LGBT folks, equitable international trade agreements, access to reproductive choices, protection of environmental/ocean concerns, or compassionate treatment of disabled and/or impoverished citizens. The world is speaking up and taking names! Yet, despite the revolts, some national leaders seem intent upon a future path of xenophobic laws and harsh edicts.

..America and Europe have long been seen by the world as a refuge for democracy. As such, Westerners have enjoyed a certain sense of security/status that ordinarily makes us welcomed guests while traveling in foreign lands. But, that may be changing. If you’re a Westerner living in a foreign land, you could become the target of people who now see you as a representative of an ideology they dislike, or even hate — an ideology that has derailed the course of their lives.

..No wonder International Educators are questioning the potential effects of the current international political unrest on our safety and the future of our careers. ISR asks: As an International Educator, has the sudden change in the political climate of America and Europe given you reason to change your future recruiting/travel plans? Are you aware of any change in attitude towards Westerners in your current location? 

ISR invites to Share your views


Take Your Meds

August 25, 2016

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If you’ve accepted an overseas teaching position & are living with a medical condition, you absolutely must do your due diligence to verify beyond a shadow of a doubt that any required treatments or meds are available in your new location. Simply asking the person interviewing you at a Recruiting Fair is not sufficient research.

   It should go without saying that many prescriptions &/or medications readily available in the West are difficult, if not impossible, to find in other areas of the world. When you move overseas, no matter where in the world you are going, you owe it to yourself to bring at least a few months’ supply of your prescription so you can stay healthy until someone sends you what you need, if it should become necessary. But do be prepared for ridiculous customs duties & maybe even a bribe or two before you actually receive your package.

   ISR hosts a handful of School Reviews that relate absolute horror stories from teachers who failed to bring meds or were unable to find required periodic treatments for themselves or dependents. For some teachers, the only option was to break contract & return home. Don’t become a victim of insufficient research!

Important Medication Facts to Keep in Mind

• It is illegal to send some medications to certain countries by mail. Check with the postal service & customs office.  This regulation will usually apply to controlled substances, but not always. In Japan some common medications are included on the no-mail list. Contact the embassy of the country you will be entering to ensure your medicine is legal there.

• Learn about the process for purchasing your medication in your new host country. Some medications can be in short supply, a different dosage may be the only dosage available, &/or you could be required to get a prescription from a local doctor.

• Before you leave home, get written prescriptions from your doctor in case you need to order meds by mail, assuming they are legal for delivery by mail.

• Research the destination country’s customs regulations regarding medications. Some countries only allow a 90-day supply to be brought in.

• It’s recommended that you bring letter from your doctor which includes the name of the meds you take & in what dosage.  The letter should state that the medicine is for your personal use.

•  You might find the medication you get with a prescription at home is available over-the-counter in your new host country. Unfortunately, the situation can also be reversed & drugs you’ve been buying over-the-counter at home may require a prescription overseas.

What has Your experience been living overseas in regards to medical treatments & medications?  Do you have any Advice to share?

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Too Frazzled to Go Back

July 28, 2016

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..Hello ISR, I’ve noticed you post teachers’ letters from time to time and open them up for discussion. The situation I’m in is literally making me physically ill from stressing over what to do. I’m just frazzled at this point and could use some advice and support from other teachers. Maybe someone out there has been in the same situation? Here goes, I hope you post this:

..This past school year, I (a single woman in my early 30s) was teaching in the Middle East and can honestly say the place I’m in is disgusting beyond words. I do take care to cover up very well, yet I literally can’t walk 10 steps on the street without some jackass ogling me or making disgusting sounds. Men have even lewdly touched me in crowded situations. From the city to the the school, just the thought of the place sickens me.

..The final straw was when I turned to walk away from a little kiosk and glimpsed the driver of a parked taxi eyeing me with his hand down his pants — you can fill in the rest. The entire scene is repulsive and oppressive and I feel like I’m trapped inside a nightmare. The school is no gem either. I won’t go into it but it’s definitely a candidate for a seething ISR School Review.

..The point is, I hate my life at this school so much that I am seriously considering not returning after the summer. Actually, I don’t know if I can face another moment of it. When I left for the summer I took everything of any value with me. Any ideas, anyone? I really need some advice. Sincerely, Stressed to the Max

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Will Taking That Photo Land You in Prison?

May 19, 2016

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..As Westerners residing & teaching overseas it’s easy to slip into believing we are somehow exempt from many of the realities to which host nationals are subject. In some instances this is most definitely true. But when it comes to the laws of the land, we are deceiving ourselves if we think we’re exempt.

Teachers will say they are law-abiding citizens. Overseas, however, one may not be aware of what’s considered an offense & quite innocently find yourself imprisoned. Something as benign as snapping a photo of a public building or making an angry hand gesture may be all it takes. In some countries, for example, just one drink is considered “under the influence” & punishable by law (as the bartender/police work in tandem to report your actions). Ignorance of local law is never an excuse…at least not one that carries any weight in a courtroom!

We’re all aware chewing gum in public in Singapore is a criminal offense, but did you know in Thailand it’s an offense to step on money (which no doubt has something to do with the fact the King’s picture appears on the currency)? So, the question becomes: What other little-known offenses might lead to a jail term throughout the world?

Be aware — If you are a U.S. citizen, for example, there’s little your government can do to help should you get into trouble overseas. Here’s what you can expect in the way of help from the U.S. government:

– An insistence on prompt access to you
– Provide you with information on the foreign country’s legal system
– Provide a list of attorneys
– Contact your family/friends
– Protest mistreatment, monitor jail conditions, provide dietary supplements
– Keep the Department of State informed as to your situation

If this doesn’t sound like much help, it isn’t!

Citizens of countries other than the U.S. can expect to receive more-or-less the same level of help from their governments. In any case, the legal systems of foreign countries can/do function in ways that may seem archaic by our standards. Yet, as guests in foreign lands we are not exempt from prosecution & our governments do not have the power to have charges against us dropped. ISR hosts Reviews & Articles from teachers detained overseas. The experiences are understandably frightening.

ISR recommends you learn the unique laws of your host country by consulting the Country Information web site of the U.S. Government or a web site from your home nation.

If you have personal anecdotal experiences to Share we invite you to inform your colleagues, below.


A Whole Lotta Drinkin’ Going On

May 5, 2016

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When you’re immersed in a foreign culture & don’t speak the language, it can be difficult to make friends outside your circle of faculty acquaintances. If, additionally, you’re living on a school-housing compound with nothing much to do & miles away from a lot more of the same, you’re sure to feel isolated.  If this sounds like a good reason to mix up a few after-school drinks with new found faculty friends, you’re not alone.

Teachers report they do drink more overseas compared to back home. The question is, how much more? One teacher tells us her high school students make bets on which teacher will come in the most “wasted” on Monday morning. We’d like to think, however, that this is the exception.

Pakistan, Qatar, Kuwait & other desert countries with little to do (that is, if you’re not passionate about sand dunes &/or shopping) impose bans on alcoholic beverages. You’d think drinking in these locations would be at a minimum. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Western expats can obtain a “license” to buy alcoholic beverages sold at government-run stores. Although the government hooch usually tastes like paint thinner, top-brand alcoholic beverages confiscated from incoming travelers also finds its way into these stores & is sold under the table by agents “supplementing” their incomes. Teachers in the Middle East tell us their schools are party central for fully stocked drinking parties.

It may well be that the level of drinking among colleagues overseas is more or less the same as that back home, with the difference being that overseas you’re more aware of what colleagues are doing outside school. We’ve heard some overseas schools referred to as “alcohol drenched,” “big drinking culture” & “shooter central.” If my school back in the States fit this description it was certainly well hidden from me, but we wonder what the situation seems like for International educators.

We invite you take our short Survey & rate the level of alcohol consumption at your international school on a scale of 0 – 5. Think of 0 as being “no drinking going on” & 5 as “let it flow, flow flow.”

Please scroll down to Share what’s going on at YOUR school.
Feel free to name your school if the “spirit” so moves you – pun intended!