Dear Dr. Spilchuk…
Evacuated from Libya & No Support
Dear Dr. Spilchuk,
I am emailing you seeking advice about the termination of my contract.
I have been teaching in an international school in Libya for the past year, on February 25th we had to evacuate due to the political unrest. We have just received an email from our school indicating that as of April 30th they will stop paying us and the company has terminated our contracts. This has put all the teachers in an awkward position as it is a difficult time of year to find full time employment. We have been given no help or compensation throughout this whole process, however we are expected to continue to post work on the distance education web site for the children who have not relocated.
I am sure that I speak on behalf of many of my colleagues who would be so grateful for any advice you can give us on what we are entitled to or what our next step could be.
I look forward to your reply
A Libyan International Teacher
Hello Libyan International Teacher,
This is an unconscionable way of dealing with the teachers at your school. I’m so sorry to hear that you have been caught in this situation. On the other hand, I’m very happy to hear that you are safely out of that dangerous situation.
Do not post work on the distance education web site. Tell the school that until they can come to some reasonable method of reimbursing you for your services during a hardship which was not of your doing, one that does not interrupt your salary, you will not ‘play their game!’ The school is breaching your contract. The situation in Libya is such that this school feels it can take advantage, monetarily and educationally of its foreign teachers. Say ‘no’ and pass my message along to all the teachers at your school!!! If you can create a full school expat boycott of the distance education program, you all have a fighting chance to force this school to do the right thing!
Responses to This Column
Message to all Teachers from the International School of Tripoli from Dr. Spilchuk: Thank you so much to all of you for coming forward to add details to this situation. Let me start by saying that International Schools are for-profit organizations. Money paid to the school goes not only towards managing the school and paying for staff but also into a single owner’s shares/pocket or into a group of owner’s shares/pockets. So for me to feel badly at this time for the owners of the international School of Tripoli, which we have just learned is run by GEMS, a much larger organization, would be unrealistic.
While the International School of Tripoli may be in jeopardy, GEMS is quite safe in many other countries in the Middle East. My much greater concern is for the people in Libya, including ex-pat teachers, who had to flee to safety. Many teachers from other International Schools around the world have been clear that their international school, in a time of war or great jeopardy to the staff, paid for plane tickets out of the host country and provided two months salary to help staff members resettle elsewhere.
Clearly the International School of Tripoli did neither according to not one, but several teachers at this school who have responded. The author of the letter that started this foray wanted other teachers to be aware of this situation so they would be careful who they signed contracts with and ensure that they had read all of the clauses carefully in offered contracts. For those of you who are not prepared to emotionally support your fellow teachers placed in this type of situation even with a word of kindness, my suggestion is that you may very well be in the wrong profession. One last note, Libyan teachers, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org I am aware of international placements in China for several teachers.
This is a petty thing but overusing exclamation marks/points undermine your strong emotions and makes one look like a teenager writing a love letter.
As a teacher who used to work in Pakistan, our school’s contracts were very clear about these situations. If anything were to happen that would require the school to close for an unknown period of time, we would be paid for two months and that was that. Does this teacher’s contract have the same kind of stipulations? Teachers who go to regions like Libya, Pakistan and who knows where else the situation will erupt, must read all of their contract and decide for themselves if they can accept the terms given. If it isn’t in their contract, they must ask the school the hard questions about what they would do in volatile situations? We all know the world has/is/ and will change…I do agree that they should stop posting work on the distance learning web site if their contracts have been terminated!
I was in a similar situation in Abidjan Cote D Ivoire, in terms of the political unrest and necessary evacuation. However our school director managed it all quite differently. She was forced to downsize and lay off may of the teaching assistants however she created a core of teachers who would work in a combined class fashion to create online lessons and assignments for students. She has worked hard with the school board to keep our contracts in place and has been able to continue to pay salaries even when the banks have been closed on Cote d Ivoire for over 2 months. She is a truly exceptional director and person and always keeps her focus on the best interest of students, staff and of course….our parents. I guess it all comes down to the director of the school. Good luck, and yeah, get teachers together to boycott the online programming until salaries are paid, you are all still working, using the cyber world in education.
Best of luck to you all! E
International Community School of Abidjan
” Children Are Our Best Hope For The Future”
Libya is engaged in a civil war and the school closed. And you use the word “unconscionable”? My guess is that the school is engaged in a struggle for its very survival and there are others suffering more – support staff, etc. Or who may not get paid for goods and services they supplied. This teacher was fortunate to leave with their clothes and their life. Not everyone there got to keep those. And you’re talking about a boycott? How about the students – don’t they deserve some support? You’ve lost some points for clear thinking and integrity on this one.
I worked in Isfahan, Iran during the Iranian Revolution in 1978. My wife, and then 9 month old child left the country on the first evacuation flight out of Iran. Most of the male employees/teachers stayed behind to run a dwindling school system and assist other employees pack up their homes and personal effects. The Company (ISS) did their very best to re-employ all who were interested in other overseas posts, however, there was no separation compensation other than a flight out of the country. My advice to all……take a hard look @ your contracts before you sign them and if you live/work in a hardship, politically fragile country expect, and plan for the worst if there’s no war stipulations in your contract.
We have a clause in our contract that states that if circumstances outside the schools control i.e. national unrest occurs, they will terminate the contract and pay either two months salary or the rest of the contract, whichever is less. This is a standard clause unfortunately.
This may also be a petty point, but lambasting punctuation points for the sake of following with a valid and informative point is most certainly petty. As international teachers we all obviously have a degree of risk-taking and adventure in us. Good for you for knowing what your options were and being so sensible as to be able to pass on your knowledge. Thank goodness that there is this forum for your wisdom and grammatical excellence!!!!
I am a teacher at the same Libyan school. We were not told of the termination of our contracts until after many teachers had posted work on the web site. Further, there was no mention of reimbursing our flights; this is in our contracts. Our contracts make no mention of our position if the school should close.
Much of the contract specifications of emergencies and emergency procedures emanate from 1) insurance cover 2) State Dept advice. For instance, if a school evacuates and then returns, a second evacuation is generally not covered. State Dept warnings to evacuate (and there are several levels) are important markers for the insurance cover to kick in.
How many teachers even know if their school has emergency plans or insurance coverage? I distinctly remember a head who repeatedly told his staff not to worry that, if needed, the State Dept was using our athletic field as the helicopter pick up point, only to have the RSO tell us that it wouldn’t take more than 5 days for the helicopter to get there! Or the school in Saudi Arabia that had the model plans for evacuation in the ’91 Gulf War but failed to take into account the closure of the airport.
A comparison of emergency plans for international schools would be educational reading – I hope ISR will do it. I think it would lead to better informed teachers asking the right questions at interview time.
As to the Libyan school asking teachers to continue to post means that the school is still open and taking tuition funds. It should be paying salary to those who post.
In fairness to the school, they probably have a lot of problems at the moment and their own survival is likely unknown at this point in time.
It is extremely petty to talk about exclamation marks in some of the above responses when this teacher is in such a position. Perhaps people should think more carefully when dismissing other peoples concerns with an unhelpful condescending response.
With regard to using long distance learning sites, you may have no option if you are being paid as of this moment. It’s not too helpful when other teachers advise you to not post on the site….when it is not them who stands to lose their current salary!!
This person should check their contract because it may have a clause that notes a notice window like noted by the person below. However, if the contract is being terminated as of 30 April 2011, then the posting of work by teachers for students would also terminate as of 30 April even though I can appreciate that this is a tough one to put on students. I would suggest before this person reacts and/or shares any message to act that he/she check the contract.
You are entitled to nothing. I currently work in the Middle East and my contract states that the terms of my contract can be changed at any time(and they were six months after I got here), I can be terminated at any time, and I have no legal recourse. The document that my school calls a contract wouldn’t be considered a legal contract in the United States. But I don’t pay taxes and I make a lot more money than I do working in the U.S. so it is a trade off.
If you are getting paid until the end of April then work until the end of April. Your final post on the distance learning web site should be on April 30th and should include the statement “Have a great summer”. Start looking for a job now. Any legitimate international school will understand why you are on the market and will give you credit for working in a difficult environment.
School fees for this school are paid on an annual basis but many students do pay term by term. Apparently Libyan students are still attending and are being taught by Teaching Assistants and the Arabic staff.
Thank you for your encouraging response. I think most teachers at the International School Tripoli will have ceased placing work on the distance education web site due to the abrupt nature of our termination which came as a great shock. In addition to this, teachers who would have otherwise been returning to the school in the new school year have now been also told that if the school opens, they will have to reapply for their jobs .End of contract bonuses are not going to be honored due to the fact that most teachers will not have completed their two/three/four academic years because of being evacuated. Even those who joined the school part way through a school year and thus have completed their obligations in terms of full years, are not going to be paid. Many people had to travel after being evacuated and stay in hotels etc. This to date has to be born by each individual teacher. Apartments which were left fully stocked with teachers own possessions, plus cars have all been left with the understanding that the school will pack everything up in due course and send it wherever.
Our question is where to from now. There has been talk of legal action but with who, the company which owns us or the umbrella company who has a 10 year contract with the school? In the first instance (GEMS) was to manage the school and its staff, now it has a partnership arrangement but still overseas a lot of the administrative operations .It has been a very disappointing experience just to be dropped like this and at the end of the day we as staff feel we have very little recourse.We also feel that GEMS have done very little to help the staff – they did provide an office in Dubai to help with the re-placement of our school-less students and to create the distance learning web site which was good but that has been the extent of their assistance. There has been help with a placement or two amongst teachers but that is about it.
If there is anymore advice you can share with us as to our next step on behalf of all of us who are members of ISR,we would really appreciate it.
I’m also a teacher at the International School Tripoli. Thanks for your empathic response, however I can see it’s difficult for you to give specific advice, without specific detail. I, like most of my colleagues, feel very let down on several fronts. First and foremost, GEMS, who are shareholders of the company and pose as managers of IST, must be accountable for the lack of support given to our floundering principal and neglected students. When it was clear we should be evacuated in February, there was no evacuation plan in place. Unlike other ex- pat employers, our company & managers did nothing to see we had safe, assisted exit from the country. It was everyman for himself. There has been no offer to reimburse flights out of Libya, or any sign of a compensation package to assist with accommodation while we have been directed to continue working from our bolt holes abroad. Breaking contract with us has been the last straw and GEMS have much to answer for, by supporting the company before students and staff. I’m sure GEMS will still get their share of profits and their management fee, while the true professionals & dedicated students and families continue to be ripped off. Perhaps through ISR & you Dr. Spilchuk, we can further explore the role & responsibility of GEMS in the management of International Schools, so that others may be forewarned, and doubtful practice exposed.
I wouldn’t say or do anything – I think in the world of international teaching, where blackballing does happen, it would be better for this teacher to just disappear into the woodwork.
HI Dr. Spilchuk and fellow teachers,
I too was working at the International School of Tripoli, and have been profoundly disappointed by the way that we have not only been treated by the International School of Tripoli, but by Gems.
Our contract, to the best of my knowledge, had absolutely no stipulations stated within which we would lose pay when it came to a situation such as this. When it comes into an agreement with an employer, one does not generally request that a clause is put in recurring one’s safe evacuation out of the country…. unless one is working in a highly volatile, explosive country such as Afghanistan or Iraq.
When this unfortunate situation occurred, we were given ABSOLUTELY no advice from either the International School of Tripoli or Gems. In fact, when other international schools in the area were closed, we were still instructed to go to work. We were given no assistance when it came to our evacuation and were left absolutely to our own devices.
When we finally escaped we did not even as much as receive an email from Gems asking us if we were okay. None of us to this point have received any correspondence from Gems inquiring about our well being, and although it is a huge co-operation within the middle east, out of a number of over 65 teachers, a handful have been offered other positions. Whilst our principal may have been sending bulletins regarding the school’s situation, Gems has been non-committal, unresponsive, and in plain words absolutely insensitive.
Whilst one recognizes that Libya is undergoing a horrific upheaval, one would have hoped that the organization would have looked after and assisted with the repatriation of its teachers, and have continued to pay them as long as possible.
Finally, for most of us, our evacuation from Libya was a traumatic, horrific experience that still affects us today, and it would have been appreciated if we had had the support and empathy of or our company.
Another Libyan Teacher