A South African colleague shares her teaching experience in Oman in the Gulf.

Ingrid decided to exchange her South African classroom for a classroom in Oman. This is the interview I had with Ingrid about her experiences in Oman.

lngrid having fun moments

How long have you been teaching?

My name is Ingrid Morris.  I have been a teacher for 24 years.  I qualified in 1991 at the former Wesley Training College in Salt River.   At the start of my career, I really thought I had made the wrong career choice as teaching posts were scarce and it was really difficult to get a job.  Nevertheless, I persevered and I am still in the profession 24 years later!

National Day celebrations and far right, Ingrid's son's confirmation at St. Anthony's Sohar.

Why did you choose to teach overseas?

It has always been a dream of mine to travel and teaching in The Gulf really appealed to me.  On the 1st of January 2013, I woke up with a very serious “bee in my bonnet” and decided to surf the net for teaching posts overseas.  I applied to 2 international recruitment agencies for the academic school year of 2013/2014 starting in August 2013 as the academic year here runs from August to June.  I also knew that an ex-colleague had been teaching The Gulf and contacted her on the same day to let her know that I had been very brave and that I had applied to teach overseas.

  Well…after that everything happened in a flash!! By the 2nd of January I had had a telephonic interview with my then Head Teacher and was made an offer and by the 5th of February I was boarding the plane to Oman.  I had never heard of Oman before this, nevertheless, it is a country right next to the United Arab Emirates (UAE – Dubai)

Exploring the ruins at Wadi Hibi and His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos's  palace (bottom left ) of  picture.

How do you find teaching their curriculum? 

We follow the UK Cambridge Curriculum.  It isn’t much different to our curriculum in terms of subject content.  We use checkpoint exams/tests to evaluate whether the students are up to speed with what was taught within a phase.  These checkpoints take place in the 6th Year (Grade) and 8th Year…mmmm very interesting!  The Systemic Tests back home are very similar.  Follow this link to check it out www.cie.org.uk/programmes-and-qualifications/cambridge-primary/cambridge-primary-checkpoint/

A very friendly camel on Junior Campus, the school where Ingrid teaches.

The kids start school at the tender age of 3 ½ and go into KG1 (Kindergarten 1).  My first teaching post here was at this level. OMG!! I couldn’t believe that these kids had to sit in a very structured environment and learn colours, shapes, phonics and to count.  However, I must say that they are such sponges at that age because none of them could speak English at the start and by the end of that year all of them were speaking English in my class.

Buddhists in Sri Lanka, rainy day vistas and The Royal Opera House.

Tell us about the children you taught there.

I have learned that children are the same all over the world.  They are no different to our South African children.  And just as we experience children with language barriers in SA, so do I experience the same here.  In fact, it’s at a more challenging level here as the only time the learners are exposed to English is during the English, Mathematics and Science classes.  All the other subjects are in Arabic, Urdu or French.  Many of their parents cannot speak English at all.  So you can just imagine how daunting the task is!

In terms of behaviour, the learners are mostly respectful and quite innocent in the upper grades compared to our kids back home.  They aren’t “streetwise” at all and also not exposed to drugs, alcoholism, gangs and violence.  The Omani people are quite peace loving people.  Oman is one of the safest countries to live in the world.  Though, I must add, it isn’t completely crime free.  I teach at a private international school and the parents definitely have a huge say in how things are done.  The one thing that our parents back home can learn is that the parents play a very big role in their children’s education..it’s almost painful..lol.  But I really appreciate it because they question EVERYTHING!

I have truly learnt to value my job here as it is by contract only and one tends to appreciate the little things that are taken for granted back home, such as job security, pension and teacher workshops and training…there is none of that here so professional development is a constant self seeking task.

Our Table mountain here in Oman

Did you find adapting to the culture a challenge?

When I first arrived in Oman, it wasn’t a complete culture shock for me.  Though, there are many do’s and don’ts, especially for women.  The women carry themselves like real ladies and wear abaya’s to cover up.  These are black “overdresses” which they wear over their normal clothes.  Scarves are black as well. Many of them are completely covered with only their eyes exposed, but this is not compulsory.  The women only wear these abaya’s in public. The men wear “dishdasha’s” which is mostly white.  These are long “dresses” but they are worn in different colours too.

I am not required to wear the abaya, but I must be modestly dressed in public.  Long skirts, if the skirt is just below the knees…then a pair of tights have to be worn. Three quarter sleeved blouses…elbows and upper arms must be covered.  No low cut necklines and the blouse must be long enough to cover up back and front.  We are allowed to wear pants…with long tops obviously..lol.  Coming from the Cape Malay community, I didn’t have a problem settling in at all.

Tell us about the foods 

As would be expected, rice is the staple diet.  They serve anything with rice or ‘bread’ (different kinds of rooti).  There are many interesting little restaurants and take-away places that serve traditional Omani food.  At first it is a novelty to eat the different dishes, but after a while one does miss ‘normal’ South African food.  So, we tend to pride ourselves in making ‘home food’ and bragging about it…lol.  There are outlets of the normal international fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, KFC, Mc Donalds and Burger King.  We even have Nando’s here, Steers and Ocean Basket in Dubai.

Travelling from here to most countries in the world is much cheaper.  I intend to travel much more in the future, I never know if this will be my only opportunity to travel and afford it.  With Dubai being just 2 hours drive from my location, it is so easy to travel there, though the visa costs are high. As a South African, I pay approximately R750 just to go over the border to Dubai.  My boys and I have travelled to Sri Lanka and loved every minute of the experience.

 But, travelling around the country of Oman is breath taking.  It is a country rich in natural resources, sea life and heritage.  There are thousands of forts and castles and many ruins to explore.  A very good friend and colleague of mine wanted to explore some ruins recently and we were stopped by the army as it has been declared a heritage site with much excavation going on.  He told us that there is a whole village of ruins being excavated and showed us the burial site of “Mariyam”.  Whoever she was, she seems to have been a very important person in the history of the country.

 There is so much more to see right here in Oman, I hope I have the opportunity to see it all.  One city of particular interest to me is Salalah in the south.  It is said that the ‘Wise Men’ mentioned in the Bible, travelled from Salalah to Bethlehem with their gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold.  Frankincense is grown in Salalah.

Old temple in Sri Lanka

After arriving here in February 2013, I made a huge decision to bring my two sons over.  The older one was not particularly impressed, but my younger one was over the moon.  I made this decision because like any mother I wanted only the best for them. Giving them the opportunity to travel and experience life out of South Africa, taking them away from the different kinds of negative influences on the Cape Flats that might have become impressionable to them in their tender teenage years, were my main reasons.  I am truly not sorry.  I wish I could get my daughter to join us, but it isn’t easy as she is out of school and over 21 years old.

  My family was very worried about me coming over to teach in The Gulf and they have since become relaxed and share my joy and adventures.

One of the many beautiful mosques.


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