At least 13 private schools in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah have laid off their staff and shut down as they cannot comply with a Ministry of Labour decision to introduce a minimum wage for Saudi teachers, it was reported.
The royal decree, issued last year, dictates that Saudi teachers in private schools must be paid a minimum monthly wage of SAR5,600 (US$1,493), backdated from when they joined, according to Saudi Gazette.
However, several schools were unable to meet the payments and were under threat from the Ministry of Education, which began to take punitive action in December against institutions which had failed to implement the policy.
For schools not meeting the new stipulations, a written warning would be issued in the first instance. If the school still did not respond within a month, the enrollment of teachers in said school would be delayed for two weeks at the start of the academic year. If the school still did not respond, it would be fined SAR5,000 (US$1,333) for every teacher working at the school, and finally the Ministry of Education would tell the Ministry of Labour to close down the school by the end of the academic year.
Malik Bin Talib, chairman of the committee on private schools, Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “Many schools have declared bankruptcy and have had to lay off employees and stop taking in applications from new students for the second semester.”
Talib added that more private schools may close because the majority of parents have rejected increased tuition fees issued by the schools to cover the increase in salaries.
The majority of those schools which have already closed were girls’ schools, which face more difficulty in complying with the decision than boys’ schools, as they are required to have a higher percentage of Saudis in their employment.
There are 3,375 private schools for boys and girls across the kingdom, with a total intake of more than 600,000 students. These schools have 50,000 teachers, including approximately 29,000 Saudis.
Talib added that many parents may now decide to send their children to public schools instead.