August 15, 2019
Dear Team ISR,
I’ve been struggling with the idea of accepting a position at a French International School in the United States of America. What’s stopping me? I’m afraid America has become far too dangerous.
I attended university in America and cherish the opportunity to return. However, following the Dayton and El Paso mass shootings, which brings the total number of such incidents in America up to 255 this year (by August 5th), I’m thinking that returning to America could be a fatal mistake, especially for a foreigner woman of color, like me.
When I think about the tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook, Parkland and Charlotte (to name a few), I know I would never feel truly safe at school. My friends say I must be crazy to even think about living in America these days. My parents point out that it appears the police have taken a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach when it comes to black folks in America. They emphasize they also see little consequences (if any) for police brutality against minorities. Add to that a renewed presence of the KKK along with their open support of the current American president, and life seems too treacherous in the U.S. right now.
Maybe I’m overthinking this! Maybe I’m overreacting! Perhaps I’ve fallen victim to sensationalist news reporting? I’ve seen incidents in other countries grossly misinterpreted as reported by news networks with “an agenda.” I sadly don’t think this is the case in America at this time.
If you would distribute my comments in your weekly newsletter and open up this topic to your readers, I would sincerely appreciate it. Hearing their perspective and advice would be of benefit to me and other educators of color who have America on their radar for an overseas teaching position.
My Best Regards to the staff at ISR,
PS. Thank you for your good work. Keep it up. So many of us depend on you!
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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June 8, 2017
…A sudden turn of events may adversely affect International Educators planning to, or currently working in Qatar and the surrounding region:
…Monday, June 5 – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Yemen and the Maldives collectively cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. Citizens of these countries have been banned from traveling to Qatar, living there, or traveling through the country. Citizens of the aforementioned countries have 14 days to leave. The UAE and Egypt gave Qatari diplomats 48 hours to leave. Middle Eastern airlines are canceling all routes to Qatar. The participating 7 nations have closed their airspace, along with land and sea borders with Qatar.
…Qatar has long been accused of backing militant groups, including so-called Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies. It is believed that wealthy individuals in Qatar have made donations to terrorists and the government has given money and weapons to hard-line Islamic groups in Syria. Qatar is also accused of having links to a group formerly known as the Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. The countries closing their borders with Qatar say they are doing so for security reasons.
…While the US, UK and other Western nations have not levied actions against Qatar, the consequences of the 7 participating nations is sure to have an effect on teachers from every nation working in the region.
To discuss the significance of these events in relation to living/teaching in Qatar & the Gulf region in general, please Scroll down to participate.
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May 18, 2017
.. Do you have an evacuation plan ready to implement should it become necessary to make a quick escape due to political or social upheaval in your current country of residence? Many International Educators I know are under the impression their school will take charge in such a situation and fly them to safety. Disconcertingly, a majority of international schools have no such evacuation plan in place–it’s every man for himself.
Believing your embassy will take care of you if an emergency exit becomes necessary can lead to a false sense of security. At least, that’s been my experience as an American living abroad. Following 9/11, the entire staff of the American embassy in Lahore, Pakistan was the very first to jump ship. The same was true in Guatemala after a military overthrow of the government. In the D.R. Congo, military/rebels could easily shut down the only road to the airport, requiring a seriously strong Plan B.
The American embassy serves primarily as an information and advisory body. Its recommendation is that if a crisis arises, US citizens should make plans to leave on a commercial carrier. In the event it does becomes necessary for the US embassy to organize an evacuation, Americans are required to sign a promissory note saying they will cover the of cost their flight “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” So much for putting my US tax money to good use!
My school in Pakistan took responsibility for getting us out soon after 9/11. They set the staff up with a travel agent and covered the cost of our exit flights. In Guatemala, with military tanks in the streets, helicopters patrolling and radio/TV/phone communication shut down, we were on our own. This school had previously offered no support for anything, so we had no reason to believe things would change in an emergency. The director lived just doors from me. He was unavailable.
The speed and regularity at which the global-political climate is changing can suddenly make a country that was relatively safe when you arrived a hot-spot to be avoided. Believing/hoping that your school or embassy is willing/able to take care of you in an emergency could be putting all your ‘safety’ eggs in one basket. A good question for a director while recruiting could be: “What’s your plan, if necessary, for an emergency evacuation?”
ISR Asks: Does your school have an emergency evacuation plan in place? If so, how practical is it, and is there a solid Plan B? Have you created a personal plan for yourself and your family just in case you find yourself on your own?
February 2, 2017
..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
January 12, 2017
..As International Educators, many of our students will be affected by American President-elect Trump’s threat to enact a ban on Muslims entering the US, and to further impose strict vetting standards on immigrants from countries he considers “exporters of terrorism.”
..Early in his campaign, Trump called for the elimination of the J-1 Exchange Visa program through which foreign students can work in the US. It is not known if he was referring to the J-1 program as a whole or only to the jobs portion. It should be noted that colleges also use the J-1 Visa to bring in visiting foreign scholars.
..Philip Altbach, a research professor and founding director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, believes the new President will deter foreign students from considering US schools and that it will be more difficult for students who do apply. Mr. Altbach goes on to say he believes the outcome will be that Australia, Canada and other countries, where English is the medium of instruction, will benefit as students direct their applications to countries other than the US. He said the UK is “likely to be in the same situation as the US as it is seen as unwelcoming to foreigners.”
..The number of international students in US colleges is calculated to be more than one million. The Middle East alone sends more than 100,000 students to US universities. A foreign student applying to universities in California said: “In his campaign, he’s discriminating against Muslim and other brown and black people ….. I’m thinking of applying to Canada“. Another student is quoted: “It’s the main topic of conversation among my friends, ….. They don’t want to apply to the US under Trump“.
ISR Asks: If your students, apprehensive to apply to a US university, asked for your advice, what would you say to them? Has your school/colleagues met to discuss this topic? If so, what was concluded?
January 5, 2017
..When you live overseas for extended periods of time, events in your home country tend to impact you differently than if you were actually living there. Immersed in an exotic culture quite different from your own, it’s not uncommon to feel buffered, even exempt, from consequences of political events currently shaping your homeland.
For example, recent US elections and BREXIT rocked the world. For better or worse, for or against, watching these events unfold from a distant land most likely lessened their immediate impact on Americans and Europeans living abroad. In some ways it’s natural to feel exempt from the current political goings-on back home as the people and landscapes that surround us envelop our lives in a different reality entirely.
Without debating, boosting or bashing the merits of the US election or BREXIT, ISR asks: How do you, as an expat, respond emotionally to major political events back home? Are you glad to be far away from their impact and living a (hopefully) less stressful life, or are you frustrated you can’t be there experiencing and vociferously participating in person? Although you may be thousands of miles from home, do such events have noticeable consequences on your overseas career? How do YOU feel about watching events unfold in your home country from a distance?
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