Teachers will boycott Saturday vote, says Dubai candidate

Outspoken blogger running for FNC claims up to 1,500 do not want to participate in polls because they are disillusioned with the job.

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DUBAI //Up to 1,500 teachers are reluctant to vote in Saturday's election because they have lost hope that it will improve their working conditions, a candidate claimed yesterday.

"No one is focusing on Emirati teachers and the issues they face," said Dherar Belhoul Al Falasi, 46, an outspoken critic who hopes to win votes with his focus on "Priority for the citizen".

"A lot of Emirati teachers have said they don't want to vote, but I tell them to vote for the right person and not cry later if their issues weren't highlighted and brought up."

Mr Al Falasi, director of events at the Dubai Media Office, has been blogging for six years about community issues. His campaign has focused on empowering citizens and strengthening national identity, women's rights, and improving health care and education.

"People want someone who is able to represent them and point out if there is something wrong, and that's what I have been doing," Mr Al Falasi said.

GA, a history teacher, said she would not vote because many campaigners did not make realistic promises.

"We teachers suffer the most," she said. "We put in a lot of effort with classes, activities and planning."

SM, a school administrator, said: "There are many people that I know [campaigning] but I will not vote for anyone because I don't feel the educational system benefited from the previous FNC members."

In an Arabic post on his website, entitled "Dear distinguished Minister of Education, did you know …", Mr Al Falasi addressed the discrepancy between the pay and incentives of teachers in public and private schools.

Research suggests public school teachers in Dubai and the Northern Emirates earn about Dh16,000 a month, and in Abu Dhabi about Dh22,000.

In private schools, teachers are paid between Dh2,500 and Dh20,000.

"I think the problem with education is not the system but that teachers do not get the respect they deserve," said Mr Al Falasi.

"If you bring a teacher into an environment where he's confident, he will be productive, but if he feels humiliated and neglected, how do you want him to produce?"

FL, a former principal in a Dubai secondary school, said teachers had lost hope.

"The teachers, to put it simply, are depressed," FL said. "People campaigning for the FNC should … give us real solutions and not imaginary promises.

"The Ministry of Education could have workshops to develop the teachers, name them as distinguished teacher of the month, give them air tickets - at least give health insurance to their children."

Ian Whitman, who works with the directorate for education at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, said professional training and development were vital motivators.

"Teachers used to command respect similar to imams but they do not have the same status any more," he said.

"The success of well-performing education systems around the world lies in their community's faith in the teachers."

The Ministry of Education would not comment, but sources say the education budget is inadequate to fund pay rises or incentives.

Last December, the FNC announced a Ministry of Education budget of Dh4.6 billion, compared with Dh7.2bn last year - a 36 per cent cut.

The National Election Committee has said people have the right to choose whether to vote.