Category: Ethics

EthicsWael

How many schools does Wael operate?

A few years ago, Wael addressed the faculty in the ASK auditorium in order to dispel rumors that he was affiliated with what is now known as AUS (The American United School of Kuwait). At the time of its founding, it was initially called the American University School of Kuwait. This is because of its affiliation with the American University of Kuwait. The name was rejected because it is not a university, and so it was renamed The American United School of Kuwait (keeping similar initials). Here is a photograph showing the original signage.

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A digital mockup from the KIPCO newsletter. (Source)

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So we did some research. Wael is a founding member of the American University School of Kuwait:

“AUK is governed by a 15-member Board of Trustees. The Executive Committee is composed of the three AUK co-founders: Sheikha Dana Nasser Sabah Al-Sabah, Mr. Meshal Ali, and Mr. Wael Abdul-Ghafoor and is particularly active and interacts with the President on a regular basis. It is an impressive Board strongly dedicated to the mission of the institution and well positioned to advance the university’s objectives including the financing of a larger campus. Consistent with Kuwaiti law, which does not have U.S.- styled “nonprofit” corporations, AUK is operated by the United Education Company, a privately held concern owned by the co-founders.”

Source.

Wael’s name also comes up in WikiLeaks.

We said WikiLeaks. Here is the source.

This is from a meeting he attended with Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. She is also mentioned in the above quote as a founder of AUK.

“Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) President of the American University of Kuwait (AUK) Dr. Shafiq Al-Ghabra recently invited the Ambassador to meet the chair of the university’s board of trustees Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, granddaughter of the Prime Minister. Accompanying her at the June 13 meeting were Dr. Al-Ghabra and two other investors/board members/founders of AUK — Wael Abdul Ghafoor (well-known to the Embassy as head of the American School of Kuwait) and Mishaal Al-Ali (a businessman/major AUK investor). Shaykha Dana turned out to be a relaxed, informal interlocutor. She met the Ambassador in her office at the University, dressed informally in western-style slacks and blouse. Now in her mid-thirties, she said that she had spent a year as a student at the University of Indiana, a year she characterized as equivalent to or better than the three years she spent at Kuwait University. She was dismissive of the quality of education provided currently at Kuwait University and clearly delighted to be leading a private effort to supply a U.S.-style liberal arts education. She and her associates commented on the difference in student behavior at AUK when compared to public institutions. For example, students are much more likely to stay around the campus and socialize after hours. They are more open to discussion, and gender barriers are greatly reduced. During the discussion with the Ambassador, Shaykha Dana and her partners talked about plans for a military academy (for troubled students) that they were considering placing on Failaka Island and indicated an interest in pursuing private options for a special needs school. Dr. Al-Ghabra told the Ambassador later that Shaykha Dana does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of AUK. He meets with her for about an hour a week and briefs her on major financial issues. She also takes an interest in building projects and campus expansion plans.”

We know that both AUK and AUS are owned by the United Education Company (UEC). We can find proof of this in the following photographs (Source 1 | Source 2):

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Given that ASK has transitioned from referring to Wael Abdul Ghafoor as the “owner” to “Chairman and CEO,” we wonder if ASK is owned by United Education Company, as well?

Well, it turns out that Wael is a board member of Al Rayan Holding Company. Al Rayan Holding Company owns the following schools in Kuwait (Source):

  1. International British School
  2. Kuwait International English School
  3. New Pakistan International School
  4. Fahaheel Al Watanieh Indian Private School

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Al Rayan Holding Company is 82% owned by, United Education Company. So Wael Abdul Ghafoor is on the Board of Trustees of a company that owns 4 competitors to school. That company, is in turn, owned by another school that owns a direct competitor – the American United School of Kuwait.

This is important. This shows that Wael is actively invested in direct competitors with ASK. This is a gigantic conflict of interest, and it leads to a lot of speculation about the current state of affairs at the school. We have previously encouraged transparency from the school. We would like to reiterate this encouragement – transparency is the key to increased morale and the improvement of outcomes at the American School of Kuwait.

Child ProtectionEthics

Child Abuse Incident Reporting Form

We at The American School of Kuwait Reviews want to help make it easier for you to report incidents of child abuse, so we have created a google form. Simply complete the form and we will make sure that the school superintendent receives a copy of the incident report. You will receive a copy for your records, as well.

Child Abuse Incident Reporting Form

We hope that ASK will begin to take incident reports more seriously, and that they will actually follow their own policies in the Child Protection Handbook. If such a time comes, we will take down this form.

Child ProtectionEthics

Child Abuse @ The American School of Kuwait

We at American School of Kuwait Reviews have begun work on a series of posts on the topic of child abuse. Our intentions are as follows:

  1. Discuss child abuse in Kuwait in general
  2. Discuss child abuse at the American School of Kuwait, in particular
  3. Discuss solutions and ways in which every member of a school community can help.

Today we’re going to continue from our previous post (click here), which summarized child abuse statistics in Kuwait. This post will also continue one of our very first posts (click here), which provided some basic information about reporting child abuse and providing safe spaces.

In the past five years, ASK has removed more than one teacher who was accused of improper conduct with students by either students or by their parents. The teacher would typically be removed from Kuwait within 24 hours. They were usually told that they could fight the accusations in court if they wanted, but that it would safer and more expedient to just leave the country. In some cases, this was the end of it – in other cases ASK then called the future employers of these teachers so that they lost their new jobs.

Child protection is important, but ASK is circumventing due process by handling issues these ways. There are four possible scenarios:

  1. The accused teacher is guilty.
    • If ASK  does not report them to recruiting agencies or future employers, then they have released a child abuser with no criminal record and have effectively circumvented the proper legal system.
    • If ASK does report them, then they will not teach again, but there will still be no legal record of their actions and they may be able to pursue other career options that could put children at risk.
  2. The accused teacher is not guilty.
    • If ASK does not report them, then they have effectively assisted this teacher in avoiding a hassle.
    • If ASK does report them, then they have ended the career of an innocent teacher and prevented them from finding gainful employment in the future even though they have done nothing wrong.

It is our assertion that Wael Abdul Ghafoor, Becky Ness, and other administrators at ASK are not the appropriate people to make these decisions, and that the way these cases have been handled is totally unethical and inappropriate. When you live and work in a country, you need to do so within the legal parameters of that country. ASK needs to stop circumventing Kuwaiti law.

We would, however, like to point out that there is some disagreement among the writers at ASK Reviews about how the school should properly handle such situations. Some feel that because “due process” in Kuwait is not as rigorous as it is in other western countries, that this can be a dangerous path to follow. The system of wasta (if you don’t know what wasta is, then do some significant research before accepting a job in this region of the world) does not always lead itself to expedience or even fairness when it comes to legal matters. This is a point that all prospective employees at the American School of Kuwait, or any other school in Kuwait, should consider thoughtfully before accepting a contract. There are numerous stories in the news of westerners being arrested and many involve unfair treatment and poor prison conditions.(Click here. here. here. here. here. here. here. or here.)

Even more appalling is the fact that while they have removed from Kuwait several teachers only due to accusations, the school continues to employee a teacher who has been reported multiple times both physically and verbally abusing children.

***Alert: The remainder of this post contains graphic language.***

***Alert: The remainder of this post contains graphic language.***

***Alert: The remainder of this post contains graphic language.***

We have been collecting evidence of the above statement since the blog was founded. We have so far collected more than 5 letters from multiple teachers indicated that a teacher who has been at the school since 2004 has whipped students with a keychain as a form of punishment on multiple occasions. In these letters, it is indicated that this was done with physical force, and not done gently or playfully. This teacher has also been reported calling students “fucking faggots” and “pussies.” Our records indicate this happened both on campus and on field trips, including sporting events that took place on international trips.

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If this behavior took place in a western school, the teacher would lose certification and face legal charges. At the American School of Kuwait, this person lost their position as a department chair and was allowed to continue working with children on a daily basis. His behavior has continued, as evidenced by the facts that the letters we collected span more than 3 school years. The letters were written to multiple administrators, including the superintendent, the high school principal, the elementary principal, and the high school guidance counselor who will become the high school principal next school year. When this many administrators know about abusive and illegal behavior and do not take appropriate action, then they have become complicit in the behavior.

Parents and teachers need to stand up against this and insist that behavior like this be handled appropriately in the future. You should document all contact that you have with administration about this type of behavior. If you see a student being physically hurt, we suggest that you also contact the police or the child protection hotline:

Child Protection Hotline: Dial 147


This post addresses the following parts of our mission statement and beliefs:

  • Educate the ASK community about current events at the school.
  • Encourage members of the ASK community to become more active in pushing the school to enact positive change in order to create and inspire a positive school environment for all members of the community.
  • Successful students require a safe, supportive, and rigorous learning environment.
  • Institutional transparency promotes positive engagement and fosters trust between the school and its stakeholders.

 

Child ProtectionEthics

Child Abuse in Kuwait

We at The American School of Kuwait Reviews have begun work on a series of posts on the topic of child abuse. Our intentions are as follows:

  1. Discuss child abuse in Kuwait in general
  2. Discuss child abuse at the American School of Kuwait, in particular
  3. Discuss solutions and ways in which every member of a school community can help.

Today we’re going to begin with a bit of a primer to help our readers understand the extent of the problem in Kuwait. In 2015, the American University of Kuwait (AUK) hosted a panel discussion on the topic of child abuse. This panel was hosted by AUK’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences as well as the American Business Council Kuwait (ABCK). The panel included:

  • Dr. Tahira Khokhar, Family Doctor @ Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute
  • Dr. James Rose, Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences @ AUK
  • Dr. Sulaiman Al-Khadhari, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry @ Kuwait University
  • Dr. Nicholas Scull, Assistant Dean @ AUK

The panel discussed the signs and differences between neglect and abuse. A study conducted by Kuwait University in 2010 asked 2500 KU students about possible abuse that occurred before the age of 18, and reported the following findings:

  • 53% reported having been abused physically
    • 9% of these cases required medical attention
  • 16% reported emotional abuse
  • 25% reported sexual abuse

For a full account of the panel discussion, click here. [Times Kuwait]

Please try to take the time to read this article. You can also view our first article on child protection. Check back soon for further information about the state of child protection at ASK.

Remember, if you need to report child abuse in Kuwait, you can call the government hotline:

Child Protection Hotline: Dial 147

You can read part 2 of this ongoing series by clicking here.


This post addresses the following parts of our mission statement and beliefs:

  • Educate the ASK community about current events at the school.
  • Encourage members of the ASK community to become more active in pushing the school to enact positive change in order to create and inspire a positive school environment for all members of the community.
  • Successful students require a safe, supportive, and rigorous learning environment.
  • Institutional transparency promotes positive engagement and fosters trust between the school and its stakeholders.
AccreditationEthics

Falsified Accreditation Reports

We have spoken with multiple members of the Collaborative Learning Committee from the 2016-2017 school year, and all have confirmed that the end-of-year report for this committee is largely false.

The committee did not meet after the initial meeting at the beginning of the year, but the chair of the committee still submitted a full report indicating that the committee not only met continuously throughout the year but that it accomplished several targets. One former committee member (from 2017-2018) reached out to us and we have confirmed the veracity of this information with two others.

We would like to see a copy of the report and to publish it on this post. If you have it, then please send it to us.

The 2017-2018 End of Year Reports were delivered on Monday May 28. Please send us copies of the reports. If you know of any falsified information, then please point it out.

How many other reports, sets of meeting minutes and dates, or other documents has the school created with intentionally false information? Please reach out to us if you can provide information about other similar behavior.

EthicsKuwait

Finding a better job (Advice from a labor attorney)

Today’s edition of the Kuwait Times includes a piece by Fajer Ahmed (e-mail), a labor attorney in Kuwait. In summary, the post offers a comparison of the practices of companies in the GCC versus companies in western countries. She suggests that there are many companies that do not follow Kuwait labor law, but that employees don’t often know how to challenge their company.

We know that ASK has had to be pushed quite hard in the past to follow labor laws properly. Some of these include:

  • Not paying the full indemnity (or any at all) of departing teachers
  • Trying to prevent teachers from moving to another school in Kuwait. They’ve been a little better about this recently, but they still stipulate in their contracts that this is forbidden, even though the practice of prohibiting transfer is illegal in Kuwait.
  • Several new moms had to push ASK to be allowed time during their day to pump milk for their babies after returning to work.

If you know of other labor law transgressions at ASK, send them to us here.

To read the full article on the Kuwait times, click here.

Fajer Ahmed is also a regular contributor on labor law in the blog 248am.com. Click here to see a list of all of her articles on that site.

Ethics

Summer School at ASK (Updated 26-Apr)

This post has been much anticipated. At least 10 people, including current and former employees, have contacted ASKR asking us to write a blog about summer school at ASK. Information we have been provided has been difficult to corroborate, so this post may not be what every person has been seeking. We will try to state all the facts, including our concerns about the validity of provided information, comparing what we have heard regarding summer school this year versus previous years. We will end with a call for more information and evidence so that we can amend and conclude this post at a future date.

The Facts We Have:

  • Summer school at ASK in the past has been run like a subject-based study hall. If students had sat for a previous course but failed (not earned credit), then they could take the class at summer school. Some people have described it more like running detention for a few weeks rather than teaching – if students show up and complete the work, then they will get the credit for the class.
  • In the past, ASK students who failed a class and then sat for summer school have earned credit, though their mark for the course was not increase. We consider this a good thing – it shows that they failed the course initially while also showing that they later passed the class. (See #2 below)
  • In the past, teachers were told they could not tutor ASK students that took their summer school class at ASK. In general, at ASK, you cannot tutor your own students (and administrators are not supposed to tutor any students – although we know it is a fact that this rule is broken regularly).
  • ASK teachers have been allowed to tutor non-ASK students that participated in ASK’s summer school. Not only was tutoring permitted, but it could take place on campus (an even bigger no-no during the school year), and it was even encouraged. The fact is that asking teachers to live in Kuwait from the end of August until the beginning of June is difficult, and asking them to stay for several additional weeks is an even tougher sell. Administration has used the prospect of earning an additional paycheck from the school and simultaneously earning cash from tutoring as a recruitment tool for summer school teachers.

Act with Integrity – Strive for Excellence – Think Critically

We think it is honest and good that the school will not change a failing grade to a higher grade. It is an accurate way to show the progress a student made over time. However, all reports from past teachers of summer school indicate that the level of work students complete over summer school does not come close to approaching the level that they complete during the year. We at ASKR believe that this is a common problem at many schools, public, private, and International, and not indicative of any unique problem at ASK. But it is still a problem – there must be curriculum oversight during summer school because credit hours are being awarded. We believe that the rigor of coursework and examinations at summer school should be no different than that of the regular school year.

Private tutoring is illegal in Kuwait. Teachers have been arrested in the past for private tutoring. Year after year, the government of Kuwait is taking this law more and more seriously. Teachers in Kuwait who tutor privately should be extremely cautious. When teachers are allowed to tutor their own students, they have a conflict of interest.

While we believe that the school is in the wrong for encouraging teachers and their students to engage in private for-pay tutoring, we also believe that teachers who tutor their own students are also wrong.

In fact, in many states it violates codes of ethics to take remuneration from students which one supervises. The Idaho Professional Standards Commission (the body which issues educator certification in Idaho) states this in its Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators:

Principle VI – Compensation: A professional educator maintains integrity with students, colleagues, parents, patrons, or business personnel when accepting gifts, gratuities, favors, and additional compensation. Unethical conduct includes, but is not limited to (c) tutoring students assigned to the educator for remuneration unless approved by the local board of education.”

Remember, even as an international educator, you are subject to the policies in the state where you were certified – do not take the risk of compromising your certification.We encourage the school to adhere to Kuwait laws and we encourage teachers to adhere to professional behavior – you should not accept money from people over which you have power.

Unsubstantiated Information

  • We have been told by some that non-ASK students who take summer school are being told by the school that they can arrange to pay teachers directly.  We here at ASKR feels like this is incomplete information, and it doesn’t seem to make sense on its face. We’re hoping to obtain documentation about the registration process in the near future.

Update

Further information has been provided, including copies of this years brochures and on-campus posters (pictures below). We are happy to report that students are not being instructed, in an official capacity, to directly pay teachers. All documentation appropriately instruct payment to go to the business office. (After-hours tutoring still seems to be permissable and encouraged, however). See the photos and comments below:

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For parents of prospective summer school students – a good question to ask will be how many formative and summative assessments will be given.

 

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16 days of instruction at 2 hours of time per day (per subject) is only 32 hours of contact time.

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Conclusions

We here at ASKR are not here to simply criticize a school – we seek the improvement of The American School of Kuwait, because the students at ASK deserve it. We hope that this post (as we hope of all of our other posts) are an impetus for reflection among the administrative faculty at ASK. Many (dozens) of teachers and administrators, current and past, have reached out to us to express that they feel there is finally a voice and a place for expression and conversation. We strive to post factual information as well as incite professional dialogue and reflection so that The American School of Kuwait can improve for all of its stakeholders.

Please continue to contact us with information so that we can continue being factual and relevant and empowering. The children that attend ASK deserve the best. We promise to keep being the impetus for improvement. Faculty and administrators who remember the guiding principals will make decisions and judgments that benefit our children, and not just our bottom line:

Practice Compassion – Make A Difference – Learn For Life

Be respectful – Be Safe – Be Your Best