Shabaka is a company that teaches English at the university in Hofuf. It has become notorious for its extremely high teacher turnover rate. The problems started years ago with the case of James Braun, a Canadian teacher. He was terminated for no reason from his position with Shabaka. Mr. Braun fought the dismissal in the Saudi court system and prevailed after a
legal battle. (The wheels of justice turn very slowly in Saudi Arabia.) The case of Mr. Braun was not an aberration. Most teachers are dismissed at the end of every academic year. The program is run by a mercurial minor-league hockey coach and his brother from the USA. There is a hockey game every week, and the teachers who play hockey are given preferential treatment. All hockey players have their contracts renewed every year, and they are treated leniently for being late,for missed teaching days, or for other infractions of the rules. In other words, cronyism is rampant at Shabaka. The hockey coach has a strong predilection for inexperienced teachers who fawn over him, and he has an aversion to highly-capable and more experienced instructors. One result of this is that the quality of instruction in the program is very low. The coach manipulates grades to inflate the students' pass rate. Shabaka has a contract with the university because its Saudi owner has a great deal of wasta. Professional development is virtually non-existent. Management is more interested in their weekly hockey games and their weekly trips to Bahrain than in the amelioration of the academic program. And management is not amenable to employee suggestions for improvement either. At the end of the most recent academic year, most teachers were not renewed-as usual-and they were given an inane certificate of appreciation in lieu of letters-of-reference. What teachers really want and expect is a professional evaluation of their performance and an opportunity to improve and grow as EFL instructors. Sadly, this has never been the case at Shabaka. Because of the high turnover, hundreds of applicants are interviewed by the coach every year and many of them are beguiled into thinking that Shabaka is a professionally-run organization. The coach has been paid for new recruits-creating an incentive for the high turnover. Potential teachers should think twice before accepting an offer from such a dishonest and unprofessional employer. Shabaka does not always honor its signed employment contracts and some are rescinded at the whim of management. Many other teachers have been employed without an iqama. The atmosphere at Shabaka is Machiavellian. On the positive side, the company usually paid on time. Apart from that, however, Shabaka has nothing to recommend it.