Irish teachers in the UAE raise concerns to education minister

Teachers say uncertainty over jobs landscape at home means they are more likely to stay in UAE for now

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES- David Keating, Irish teacher at the Irish Education Minister meeting Irish Teachers to talk about why they left Ireland to teach in UAE.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Patrick Ryan's story
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Irish teachers working in the UAE, who attended a meeting with their country’s education minister on Thursday, said there is still work to be done to make a return home appealing.

Joe McHugh, Irish education minister, held a town hall-style meeting with hundreds of teachers from his home country based in the Emirates to find out what it would take to make it easier for those who wished to return to Ireland to do so.

But many of the teachers who attended said they were still no closer to leaving the UAE.

“It was worthwhile in the sense that we got to tell the minister what the challenges were that are preventing us from returning home,” said Karen Kelly, a 34 year-old teacher in Dubai.

“However, it is clear there is still a lot of work to be done if teachers are going to be persuaded to give up what they have here to return back to Ireland.”

She said a main part of the problem was not enough real statistics about the job landscape for teachers in Ireland were available to them.

“We know there are 2,500 Irish teachers working here in the UAE,” she said.

“But how many jobs are actually available for teachers back home?”

She said a recent advert for a teaching position in Ireland summed up the fears of teachers here about returning home to work.

“There was an advert for a one hour a week contract for a teaching position in Ireland recently,” Ms Kelly said.

“That is not reassuring at all for someone in their 30s. How would I be able to afford to put petrol in my car never mind pay for rent or get a mortgage?”

David Keating, a 28 year-old-teacher with Raffles World Academy in Dubai, had mixed feelings about the meeting at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel.

“I was already aware of most of the problems we spoke about tonight and it is clear that any progress in attracting teachers back to Ireland is going to be slow.

“That said, it was a therapeutic exercise to know that our voices were heard,” he said.

Jennifer Forde, 29, was less impressed with the meeting and felt the minister should have offered solutions rather than merely hear what needed to be done.

“He came over here to see us but it felt like we were the ones offering solutions,” said the teacher from Dubai International Academy, Al Barsha.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES- Sorcha Coyle, Irish teacher at the Irish Education Minister meeting Irish Teachers to talk about why they left Ireland to teach in UAE.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Patrick Ryan's story
Sorcha Coyle, Irish teacher at Rashid School for Boys, says there is much to do before Irish teachers will consider returning home. Leslie Pableo for The National 

Aisling Fennell, 45, from Raffles World Academy, said she was returning home permanently in July but Thursday’s meetings has made her doubt her decision.

“I am starting to think I shouldn’t be based on what I heard tonight,” she said.

Another major concern raised by teachers was the tax that would have to be paid upon their return.

“If you set up an investment portfolio as an expat and you return to Ireland, after eight years they take away 40 per cent of your returns,” said 33-year-old Sorcha Coyle, who works at Rashid School for Boys, Dubai.

“That’s a huge issue. But the format of the meeting was great, while there is clearly a long way to go to restore teachers’ faith to return home it gave us hope.”