Muscat: Delay in grant of visas to teachers is putting pressure on private schools in Oman, forcing them to increase class sizes, say school officials.
Most affected are the Asian schools with Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi schools sometimes waiting for months at a stretch to secure visas for their teachers.
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“We are pressurised to do extra work, and are struggling a lot. School managements are taking us for granted,” a teacher at one of the Indian schools in Muscat told the Times of Oman on condition of anonymity.
“Students’ education is also being affected as class sections have been combined and all the students are being taught in a single class room.”
Teachers and officials of various Indian schools told the Times of Oman that every school in Oman, on an average, is running short of at least 20 teachers for want of visas.
Wilson George, the Chairman of the Board of Indian Schools, refused to confirm or deny it, but said, “A large number of approvals are needed to hire a teacher, and the process is time consuming. Then again, we have to apply in lots, which takes time. We’ve a pool of 1,700 teachers and plan every year to share the resources.”
George said sometimes, various class sections are combined to cope with the situation.
Asked if the Indian schools are facing an acute shortage of teachers, he said, “Our schools experience similar issues (shortages), including the issue of obtaining visas in time. Different levels of approvals are necessary for us. It’s slightly difficult for us.
“Teachers, unlike other job categories, have to seek attestations from different agencies (in their home countries). Then there are other procedures that we’ve to follow here in the Ministry of Manpower and Education,” he said.
“We are not managing... (rather) you can say, we’re surviving.”
Officials of Pakistani and Bangladeshi schools also say it takes two to three months to bring a teacher from outside the Sultanate and the void is often filled by teachers who are here on family visas.
“We have teachers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Ghana, Sri Lanka and many other countries. Many were hired locally when they were here on family visas. Under the rules, the (family) visas get cancelled and are changed to new work visas,” Principal of Bangladesh Schools, Lt Col Mahmud Ul Alam, told the Times of Oman. “It takes three to four months usually to bring a teacher from Bangladesh or elsewhere,” he said.
Officials of the Pakistani schools said avoiding shortage of teachers depends on how quickly a school administration can “anticipate a situation.”
“Whatever procedures are there, visa or legal regulations, all these take time. It’s also about how soon we (the school) initiate the visa process,” Ataullah Niazi, Senior Principal, Pakistani Schools System, told the Times of Oman. “Whether there will be shortage of teachers or not depends on how the process is executed.”
Niazi said it takes around two to three months to bring a teacher from Pakistan.
“Visit visa teachers are not allowed to work in Oman by the authorities. Some of our teachers have been employed on family visas, but once they are with us, we initiate the process of change of visa from family to school. If we have to recruit a teacher from Pakistan, it takes two to three months,” he added. He said it takes time to get all the documents attested in both Pakistan and Oman.
A Ministry of Manpower spokesperson said the school authorities must take up the issue with the relevant directorates.
“The ministry has shifted to online visa system and this should save them (schools) time. If there are delays in getting visas, the school authorities must visit the relevant directorates and track the process. We follow our normal procedures, though,” Talib Al Dhabbari, head of the media department at Ministry of Manpower, said.