Re: Al Khaleej Training and Education
Direct English/New Horizons
On The Mark Recruiting
June 18th, 2017
My name is Michael Hitchkins, and I worked for Al Khaleej Training and Education from April 2017 to the present. This is my account of my employment experience with Al Khaleej Training and Education. The branch I was hired by is based in Riyadh, although other branches seem to follow the same methodologies and have the same attitude toward their foreign staff. There are exceptions, but I was told “This company is in deep trouble…” by a longtime employee, and it would seem that their attitude has changed.
To make this post short and digestible, I have composed it as it was given to the Ministry of Labor, which is a condensed list of complaints and account of my experience. What I learned along the way, and other comments, are included within at the end of each point.
I have no doubt that this account will be attacked by supporters of foreign ethics policies that differ vastly from the West, or any other place I’ve taught, and those generally disgruntled for one reason or another.
As you read the following, keep in mind that I gave up two other promising positions to take this one.
List of Complaints:
1. My contractual agreement was for a period of six months. This was agreed upon during Skype interviews and through email/Skype chats. After I arrived at Al Khaleej Training and Education in Riyadh, and after I had signed my contract, the duration of the contract was changed to 1 year without my knowledge or approval. (This helps to explain why I had to badger them for an entire week to gain a signed copy for myself. The answer to my request was usually, “Don’t worry about it,” or “God willing, we will give it to you tomorrow.”)
2. Prior to attaining a visa for Saudi Arabia in my passport, I had to fly to the nearest British embassy and pay for a hotel. I was assured that the company would reimburse these expenses upon arrival if I kept the receipts. I did, and I still have them. No such remuneration was forthcoming. The topic was systematically dodged like a bullet.
3. A relocation loan was verbally guaranteed, as well as in writing. This also never materialized, was dodged like a bullet with requests for an expense form completely ignored, and as a result I actually went for several days without food or clean drinking water when my personal funds ran out. A painful experience when one is not prepared for it. (I was eventually told that they didn’t have an expense form, and this statement was accompanied by looks of confusion.)
4. My Letter of Invitation specifically states my working location as Riyadh. Shortly after arriving in Riyadh, I was transfered to another branch in Dammam. Again, I was told that my relocation loan was waiting in Dammam… tomorrow. The center in Dammam took photocopies of my documents, my Cambridge PET certification for a Ministry of Education inspection, and told me they’d furnish the loan… tomorrow. I was told about the inspection after the copies were taken, and assured that I would be present for the inspection. I was further told by a filipino worker that none of the teachers at that center had scored higher than 700 on the IELTS, and they regularly had to work ten to twelve hour shifts. Sometimes without more than a five minute break all day. I was told that I was the only certified teacher there.
They then drove me to a hovel 30 minutes away that had holes in the walls, stank really bad, and had old and dirty beds for use. They said they would call me. I refused to stay there, so they took me back to the branch where I was left to sit in the manager’s office for 30 minutes. They suddenly announced they had a better place to lodge me. Despite the abundance of hotels within the area, they dove me to a hotel 45 minutes away from the Dammam center in Al Khobar. After a week of siting in that hotel, without contact from my school or the manager that dropped me off there, I was met by another “anonymous” employee, who told me that the inspection went fine, the manager and branch had passed, and that they had simply reported me sick that day to the inspector. He seemed quite triumphant about it.
When I filed a complaint with the Labor office in Al Khobar, and sent the company their summons to court, the school immediately cancelled my hotel and made me fly back to Riyadh, so I could not attend the Labor Board meeting. As they had intentionally refused funds to me, I could not stay by myself. (I was told by the Ministry of Labor that a teacher is only allowed to work in the city designated in the Letter of Invitation.)
5. My contract states that I would be paid at the end of every month. In light of the absent Relocation Loan, I was very angry when the end of the month came around and they told me I would be paid at the end of the next month instead. They further stated that I would be paid by direct deposit, then they changed it to giving me a local cheque that I could cash myself, which subsequently changed to, “You cannot cash the check without an Iqama… but, we’ll help you.” Yeah, right.
6. They promised the choice of company housing or an allowance before I arrived. When I arrived, there was no housing and they moved me from hotel to hotel three times. I am temporarily staying at another teacher’s private accommodation. After 2 months, they have still not paid my salary.
7. They insisted that I run out and purchase a new laptop to facilitate the classroom and my lessons, instead of providing the necessary equipment themselves.
8. They then told me I would have to drive from Riyadh to Bahrain for my monthly visa run and to pay for it myself, instead of the company buying a relatively cheap ticket and paying for the visa, as is standard practice in Saudi Arabia.
9. They kept changing my status internally within the company from full-time to part-time and back again, while arguing among themselves that I had no right to health insurance (it’s stated in my contract that I do), along with the other minor benefits of full-time employment, such as a company email account.
10. They suddenly announced one day that I could not have an Iqama for six months, instead of the standard three months, implying they had no intention of furnishing that either. (The Ministry of Labor took an issue with that as well.)
12. They embarrassed me in front of the class by interrupting me and mocking me, stating I was to be a Conversation Teacher and not an English Teacher. My job description, and all previous discussions before I was hired, centered around my roll as a General English Teacher.
There are more points that could be covered, but I think this is a thorough enough warning.
In short, this school hired me in order to falsify the branch academic requirements to pass a Ministry of Education inspection in order to continue advertising a Cambridge PET curriculum and receive further funding from the Saudi Arabian government. They further hired me, without any intention of payment, to cover their primary teacher’s Ramadan holiday. (Said teacher told me, before he flew off into the blue, that 20 odd other teachers had been treated the same way and had left at their own expense and without payment within the last year.)
I hope this short account of Al Khaleej Training and Education, known also as Direct English/New Horizons, and the instigating recruiter, On The Mark Recruitment, will help steer other sincere teachers away from a similar situation.
(Snakes will be snakes.)
This is Mark from On the Mark Education. I am sorry this happened to you while you were teaching in Saudi Arabia. I have checked our database and you actually never applied to us or got a job through us regarding find a job in Saudi. I am not sure who you are and maybe you are just a competitor trying to create something not true about us so people won’t apply to us? Anyway, I am not sure how our company is involved with your story but I hope everything ended up working out for you.
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