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PreK, nurseries suffer from extended closure in Kuwait

By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Private preschools and nurseries in Kuwait are suffering the extended closure required by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic. Serving children from as young as one year old to four or five years old, many of these nurseries and preschools have opened virtual learning for their young charges but most of the nurseries have seen low enrollment. An English nursery school told Kuwait Times it doesn’t have enough students to cover expenses – from the villa’s rent to salaries of teachers.

“We are struggling, but we cannot blame anyone for this. We are facing a crisis; students who are enrolled in our online classes are not enough to cover our expenses – the enrolment rate is less than 10 percent. We hope the crisis will be over soon,” said Nadine, founder and owner of a preschool in Hawally. “We cannot blame the parents, because our primary concern is the safety of our children,” she said.

There are nearly 700 private preschools and nurseries in Kuwait. Most offer a mix of educational and play classes for children, essentially a preschool environment for those too young to enroll in Kuwait. Children within this age range also find it difficult to engage via online classes and many nurseries aren’t even offering online options.

Some are doing limited online, with parents and children at home, such as painting, art and other craft or story times and basics such as phonics. But overall, online learning is limited for such young ages. The result is that most nurseries and preschools are effectively closed at least until November, when the ministry of health will reassess the decision closing on campus learning.

In the meantime, nurseries and preschools have no revenue as few children are enrolled. Kuwait Times asked Nadine if her school is able to pay teachers conducting online classes: “So far, all those who are working fulltime are being paid accordingly, but we have some staff who are receiving 50 percent of their salaries because we cannot pay them all. They understand the situation and according to them, so long as they have a job, they are okay,” she said. “Some nurseries are not operating until now so their teachers aren’t getting paid, while some have fired their teachers – at least we are trying our best to give them a salary,” Nadine added.

Impending terminations
A private nursery teacher who spoke to Kuwait Times shared her thoughts about impending terminations at her school. “At our school, we are not sure if we will be the next to get a termination letter. We could lose our jobs just like the first batch of teachers who were told to stop working,” said the teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“Retrenchment continues, and we are all aware of the fact that many children have left the country and many parents have lost their jobs. So economically speaking, many parents cannot provide for their children’s education in private schools. Many parents are looking for cheaper options – they cannot continue to enroll them in schools like ours, which is expensive for many. Some of our primary teachers were terminated in April,” she noted.

Her school promised to send the teachers home with air plane tickets and after paying all their indemnities. “Affected teachers are those receiving higher salaries – teachers from the US, UK, Jamaica and Africa. They are the first targeted to be retrenched, but they said we are also not safe. I heard some of our schools will be closed too,” she added.

“This is really very tough times for all of us and we hope that everyone survives. Since March, we are only getting half of our salaries. We have several bank loans in Kuwait and our countries, so if we are only receiving half of our salary, how can we overcome the challenges ahead? Really, we are in great trouble,” the teacher said.

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