UAE | Education

I’m a school teacher in Dubai and this is my story...

Overworked and underpaid, the life of an average school teacher is full of trials and tribulations. Based on their inputs, we give an insight into how their days pan out in a typical month around KHDA inspections

  • XPRESS report
  • Published: 21:43 October 10, 2012



“The KHDA inspectors are visiting us shortly and the school must put up a good show to up its ratings. Dreadful days ahead"

Tore myself out of bed at 5am to catch the 6am bus. Grabbed a cereal bar from the kitchen as there was no time for breakfast. Couldn’t eat it though. Had barely stepped into school when we were ushered into the supervisor’s office for a meeting, which was followed by a session with the headmistress and then the principal. The KHDA inspectors are visiting us shortly and the school must put up a good show to up its rating. Dreadful days ahead!

On a brighter note, it was good to catch up with Rashmi who’s back from vacation. She looked radiant. I wonder if she’s expecting another baby.


I like kids, even those ill-mannered ones who tug my jumper every few minutes or urinate in their pants. But when you have a KHDA inspection looming and dozens of reports to prepare in anticipation of their visit, there is no time for niceties. I must admit I was very rude to the children. But you can’t really blame me.


Frenzied panic. They’ll be holding mock KHDA inspection drills from tomorrow and we’ve been asked to stay back till 4pm everyday. I am fuming mad.


This stupid mock inspection drill is driving me crazy. Four dummy inspectors stormed into my classroom and asked silly questions about my teaching methodology. Apparently my answers weren’t good enough, because immediately after they left, the headmistress summoned me to her office and asked me to rehearse more. I have never felt so worthless.


Aargh. It’s a weekend evening and I am stuck at home preparing self-evaluation reports and trekking sheets for KHDA inspectors in back dates. It’s going to take me the whole of Friday and Saturday to finish them. My husband and kids are grumbling and understandably so.



The management must have been really busy over the weekend. Every corner of the school has been spruced up. There are potted plants near the entrance, a new carpet in the reception, hand sanitisers in the toilets, healthy food choices in the canteen and fresh coats of paint in all classrooms. I hope the overbearing paint smell doesn’t give us away.


They are sucking out the joy of teaching by overburdening us with stuff that’s got nothing to 
do with students. If preparing 
all these detailed fake reports were not enough, now they 
want us to call parents and instruct them what to say in front of the inspectors.

Rashmi had a terrible day. The mock inspectors bullied her so much she nearly had a nervous breakdown. I know it’s not good for her baby. We got a cheap lunch packet from school for staying back. I gave mine to the bus conductor, but he politely refused it.


It’s nearly mid-week and I am already exhausted. I don’t know if I am cut out for this. The headmistress called an emergency meeting. She said she’d been tipped off about what the KHDA inspectors will look at and wanted to share a vital piece of information. “I heard they’re looking at the body language of teachers,” she started. “So if an inspector is watching as you read from a book or communicate to a child, make sure you use a lot of body language. The more the merrier.” For good measure she also handed us photostat copies of an article on ‘20 Simple Tips to Boost Body Language Techniques in the Classroom’. I am feeling sick. Not sure if it’s because of stress or the paint smell.


It’s getting crazier by the day. We’ve been asked to revise the seating arrangements of students and decorate the classroom walls with more chart papers. I hate to play along with this charade. What’s in it for us anyway? Whether the school gets a better rating or not, we’ll still get a pittance of a salary. Our appraisals are an even bigger joke. After several rounds of appraisals, we got a monthly hike of Dh40 last year. It was so embarrassing I didn’t tell anyone about it.


Nervousness is an indigestible ball in the stomach and a dryness in the throat. The KHDA team is coming on Sunday and I am more tense than a turkey in December. The stage is set. Only the curtain has to go up. I’ve to keep faith and hope we put up a good show.



The first day of the KHDA inspection passed without much ado. The inspectors attended the morning assembly and looked visibly impressed by the skit prepared by the students. “We do it every few days,” our principal told them without batting an eyelid. The inspectors didn’t come to my class but they did go to quite a few others. After they left, we were bundled in a room and made to exchange notes with teachers who interacted with them. “They are emphasising on personal development,” our supervisor concluded after hearing them. “Remember, ‘personal development’ is the keyword here. So if they come to your class and ask what’s your main focus, tell them it’s personal development.”


Monday was manic. The inspectors didn’t come to my classroom (and I am glad for it), but what they did in Rashmi’s classroom triggered an upheaval across the school. Apparently one of them opened a few tiffin boxes of students and found some packets of crisps. ‘They are checking for junk food’. The word spread like wildfire and for most part of the afternoon, the teachers were busy rummaging through lunchboxes of befuddled children and replacing any junk food with healthier choices bought from the canteen by paying from their own pockets. By the end of the day, we had collected so many packets of crisps and sugary doughnuts, we didn’t know where to hide them. I suggested we give them to our bus conductor.


At last the inspectors came to my classroom. They sat in the back row and made notes while I taught from my well-rehearsed lesson plan. I don’t know how long they stayed, but it seemed like an eternity. Towards the end, one of them asked what I was doing on the personal development of students and like a loquacious parrot, I blurted out the familiar jargon I had so painstakingly learnt.


It seems as if a big weight is off my chest. I can finally breathe. The inspectors are in school till tomorrow and we have been told to stay alert for another day.


The past few days passed in an unrealistic blur. The KHDA inspection and its preparation were far more demanding than I had imagined. But I am glad it’s over and we won’t have to put up with the sham at least for another year.



For the first time in weeks, I could concentrate on my real job: Teaching. The students have missed on several days of studies and it will be a while before I can help them catch up. I’ve got their notebooks home and will have to stay up till late night to check them. Anybody who says we’ve a six-hour job must come to my house. The never-ending school work eats into my home time almost everyday. On other fronts, things are returning back to normal. The potted plants have disappeared, so have the carpet in the reception area and hand sanitisers in the toilet.


The Principal looks pleased. It seems the school will get a better rating this year and, by implication, also get the licence to hike fees. I feel sorry for the parents.


A long, tiring month is coming to an end. I have recounted my story in detail. But that’s because this story, can’t be told in halves. It’s all or nothing.


Didn’t feel like teaching today. I feel drained out. Desperately looking for the weekend. I’ve neglected my family for weeks. They deserve a treat for being so understanding.


It’s payday: Just got an SMS alert saying my salary has been credited into the bank. As main actors of the staged drama we put up for the KHDA, we deserve four weeks holiday and a fat cat salary to boot. Not Dh3,000.

(Based on interviews with many Asian teachers across various schools in Dubai)

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