UAE private schools recruit dozens of Emirati staff but challenges exist, say headteachers

Private schools must ensure 4 per cent of their staff are Emirati by the end of the year, rising to 10 per cent by 2026

19-March-2012, Al Afaq School, Abu Dhabi

Mariam Hassan, 22 Years Old,  Student in Emirates College for Advanced Education

Emirati students being trained to be teachers by the Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi. They are the only ones that are being trained to Abu Dhabi Education Council standards. Fatima Al Marzooqi/ The National
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Private schools have intensified recruitment efforts to meet the UAE's Emiratisation targets, but securing Emirati teachers remains a challenge for some smaller institutions.

From January 1, 2023, private companies with more than 50 employees must ensure that 2 per cent of staff members are Emirati.

This figure will rise to 4 per cent by the end of this year, 6 per cent in 2024 and 8 per cent in 2025.

The policy was introduced by the government, as part of a major push to ensure 10 per cent of the private sector workforce is Emirati by 2026.

Organisations operating in free zones are exempt from the requirements.

Figures released on Wednesday showed that 28,700 Emiratis have taken jobs at private companies since the launch of the Nafis employment programme about a year ago.

Shiny Davison, principal at the Indian Academy in Dubai, said the school had hired two Emirati staff members, one of whom would be working at the reception and the other remotely in data.

Ms Davison said that before January the school, which has 135 employees, had no Emirati staff — although officials did try to hire Emiratis to teach Arabic.

“We try to look for Emiratis, but rarely get [applicants],” said Ms Davison.

“As a person who has lived in this country for 26 years, I totally support this programme. It's a positive move and I think it's essential.

“As the government introduces this there should be a little more clarity and availability of resources about where we can go for help to get people on board.

“If the government can provide us with the resource bank of people who are willing to work for different categories, it would be easy.”

Dr Beno Kurien, principal at International Indian School — Abu Dhabi, said their school had 55 staff members and had hired two Emiratis, one of whom would work as an Arabic-speaking secretary to engage with parents.

Dr Kurien said finding and hiring Emiratis had not proven a financial burden.

“As a whole, it is not a burden so far as it is at two per cent right now. If it goes beyond 10 per cent, it will be a challenge for sure,” said Dr Kurien.

“Finding Emirati teachers is hard as they prefer the government schools because of pay levels.

“Secondly, for teaching, there are prescribed qualifications, otherwise the person would have to work as an assistant teacher.”

He said that due to a shortage of Emirati teachers, many schools preferred to hire Emiratis for administrative work.

Employers urged to support drive

On Thursday, Abdulrahman Al Awar, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation, urged employers to expand efforts to meet next year's Emiratisation target.

Authorities said that while more than two thirds of companies hit the January 1 target, many firms had not taken the requirements seriously enough.

“Educational institutes have thousands of jobs, not only for teachers,” said Mr Al Awar.

“If they claim there aren't enough Emirati teachers, then they can hire Emiratis in other jobs in their institutes.

“We have meetings with many institutes and we heard many excuses. However, some brought Emiratis and trained them to teach some topics like Arabic, Islamic and social studies.”

Taaleem, one of the UAE's largest private education providers, now employs 204 Emiratis out of a workforce of more than 3,000.

Talat Goldie, human resources director at Taaleem, said the school group had hired Emirati teachers and learning assistants, and also took on citizens in their administrative, finance and human resources teams.

She said their schools had been hiring Emiratis over the course of the past three years and they did not struggle to meet targets.

“We weren't in a tough position the way a lot of other companies were,” said Ms Goldie.

“If you take all of 2022, I'd say we've hired about 30 to 35 Emiratis. But, before that we still had a good number which is way over the 2 per cent minimum we need to have.”

Gems Education launched Emiratisation Open Days for UAE citizens in October and were able to increase the number of Emiratis in the staff by 70 per cent between October and January.

The Gems Education initiative began with a special Emiratisation Open Day held on October 8 at Gems Dubai American Academy.

Attended by highly skilled Emiratis including Gems Education Alumni, parents and staff as well as university students, the event was an opportunity for jobseekers to network with education leaders, keynote speakers and hiring managers.

Fatima AlShamsi, head of Emiratisation at Gems Education, said: “The number of our Emirati [staff] increased by 70 per cent.

“For Arabic and Islamic teachers, we were able to recruit 13 for on-the-job training.

“Also, we were very successful in getting many Emiratis for teaching assistant positions and as teachers.”

As part of their Emiratisation strategy, Gems Education hired staff in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah but Ms AlShamsi said they were most successful in hiring Emiratis in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: January 16, 2023, 12:12 PM