Kuwait is now considering limiting the number of expatriate students in its public schools. The only “non-Kuwaitis” who may be included into our government schools are stateless students who are the offspring of military personnel or parents from Gulf countries or a student who has a Kuwaiti mother. Apart from the fact that this can be misconstrued (or construed, for that matter) as racism, the majority of students in public schools are already sheltered and not accustomed to diversity, so embedding them even further into a cocoon is worrisome.
I have experience teaching English at a public school here and I lasted only a year. The students and staff members were incredible souls, but the curriculum was shockingly insular. All teachers receive a book from the Ministry of Education and we were not allowed to divert from the book under any circumstances. The classroom routine was also a ritual that needed to be conformed to strictly. Vocabulary words were to be written on the left side of the whiteboard (yes, not kidding), the title of the chapter and page number on the top, and the rest of the board was used to take notes while dictating to students. During an evaluation, I was gently berated for not adhering to the board set-up as per the stipulation. To say the students were bored out of their minds is an understatement. Little did they know the teacher (yours truly) was more bored than them.
One day, I rebelled and had a discussion with sophomore students regarding school. They vented about how much they hate school, and I mentioned Malala Yousefzai, who at their age became a pioneer for young women globally. They had no idea who Malala was, so I asked the head of the department if I could share a YouTube interview with them to galvanize and inspire them. The rule was to ask the principal. When I did, her response was: No way! What if their parents support the Taleban? I looked at her, awestruck, and said: You think we have families who are inclined toward Taleban ideology? In Kuwait? She said: You never know. So I thought: All the better to air the video and educate these young minds, so they do not follow in the footsteps of their parents. She told me to stick to the curriculum. And so we kept their minds insulated into a dogmatic, preserved syllabus without stimulation, just in case someone would get offended.
And now, a new solution is to further isolate them by depriving them of an inclusive, diverse student body and propel them into a society that seems stubbornly moving toward Kuwaitization in all fields. Why is it that the only laws that seem to be implemented are laws that protect and focus on Kuwaitis? Why can’t we focus on real education, solving the addiction problem in our country, eradicating censorship, allowing religious freedom, increasing tolerance, fixing our highways and educating drivers and building a community that provides equal opportunities for all regardless of race, nationality and religion? I see that for Kuwait. And many locals too, but if our lawmakers are hell-bent on imposing benefits on locals at the expense of foreigners, we need to remind them that passports are man-made and there are enough resources on our planet to be shared by all.
By Nejoud Al-Yagout