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Kingdom of Bahrain
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ITS the first week of term and the entrance to a primary school on the island is busy with a throng of parents and children in the playground, milling around as they all begin to get used to the routines of the new school year and the names of their new teachers.
The doors open and children make their way into their classrooms. Parents wave, turn away, walk to their cars and start their days, somewhat safe in the knowledge that the school they have just dropped their child off at has their safety as well as their educational interests at heart. For the majority of parents on the island, however, this is a false sense of security.
A few parents can be significantly more confident of their child’s safety than others. This is because robust and rigorous criminal record checks are made to assess a teacher’s suitability to spend time in the company of their children. In fact, it is a term of their employment and without a cleared criminal or homeland Ministry for Education check, employment cannot commence.
Other parents, however, don’t have the luxury of peace of mind since it is not an actionable law on the island which means it comes down to the discretion of school owners rather than the Ministry for Education to decide if someone is suitable to teach in their school or not.
Since schools want pupils, (because bums on seats means cash in the bank) that means that, begrudgingly, they have to employ teachers and, so long as they satisfy the ministry by holding that precious resource of a degree and a teaching certificate, then who cares if they’ve been struck off for beating pupils, murdered their mother or ran amok with an assault rifle in a supermarket, they’re in.
Schools on the island that do insist on criminal background checks do so because it is a school policy and, of course, based on experience and common sense.
If it were a country-wide policy or in fact even a law, then all parents could feel as equally safe that the same name they and their child learned at the beginning of term isn’t languishing on a police database or a barred teachers list in their country of origin, but it isn’t and that means that child safety in schools has become a matter of equality. To put that another way if you can pay for it you’ll get it, if you can’t, you won’t.
To be even blunter, the level of security you can expect for your child in their classroom depends on the amount of money you can afford to pay each month. And that stinks.
Recently a national clampdown on false degrees was heralded on the island. It was announced that there were many people working in Bahrain in professions such as engineering, education and even medicine that had falsified their degrees to assume their positions.
Using that as a precedent how many teachers, principals, security guards, kitchen staff, grounds men, bus drivers and school administrators do you think there are working in schools in Bahrain that really shouldn’t be?
The reality is, nobody knows, because nobody’s checking.