Kenyan teachers allege poor working conditions & sexual harassment in Somalia's Elm Schools; includes school's comments

Author: Beatrice Kangai, Daily Nation (Kenya), Published on: 4 November 2019

"Kenyan teachers allege exploitation in Somaliland", 28 October 2019

It came disguised as a once-in-a-lifetime job opportunity: a teaching job at a prestigious international school in Hargeisa, Somaliland, with a salary of Sh50,000 a month, free air ticket, work visa, meals, accommodation, and paid tuition outside of lessons. “That meant I would be saving nearly 100 per cent of my salary,” Paul*, a teacher who returned home recently from Hargeisa, says. It sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime, but when Paul got there, he quickly realised all was not what he had looked forward to. “It’s like a concentration camp,” he says. “You don’t feel like a human being.”

Paul is one of many Kenyan teachers who have been trafficked into Somaliland through unscrupulous recruiters for Elm Schools, also known as Young Muslim Academy. The recruiters work in cahoots with corrupt immigration officials in Somaliland to smuggle in Kenya teachers for cheap labour. Paul says he was introduced to the recruiters by a friend. He met an agent of the school in a shabby office on Tom Mboya Street, Nairobi, in October 2018, where all travel arrangements were made at no cost to him. Interviews with 17 teachers, some of whom returned to Kenya recently and who asked that we protect their identities for fear of reprisals, reveal multiple allegations of false promises during recruitment, gross underpayment, instant deportations, abuse of labour practices, sexual harassment, inadequate food, substandard accommodation and lack of freedom of movement and association...

Elm Schools human resources director Benson Samia denies the allegations. “We respect our teachers and their happiness, and comfort is our number one priority.” Regarding claims of abusing labour practices and deporting teachers without notice, he says the school runs like any private business and expects high performance from its staff. “We are in the business of moulding young minds and don’t condone incompetence or under-performance.” He adds that he has never received any complaints about sexual harassment. “All the teachers here are adults and I believe anything that happens is consensual,” he says.

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