Quiet and communication

The ‘clever’ lecturers that were ‘in-with’ the officers seemed to get an easier ride, they even and had power over their colleagues. They often kept their cards very close to their chests and in some cases given the role of a section supervisor. It was thought that these section supervisors were preventing communication directly from the lecturer to an officer and even the officers would prevent communication between lecturers and senior officers, or the commander, so that their own power and influence would be maintained in the eyes of their respective supervisors (statements 42-56).

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The most innovative ideas came from the lecturers, which went up this chain of command, but at each stage supervisors would take it and present it as their own ideas, consequently many of the lecturers would implement change, or improvements by themselves and keep it to themselves (statement 8). Lecturers felt that the only real indication of their abilities would be highlighted in examination results, and then the senior officers would pay attention, and realise where the talent lay. Unfortunately many of the lecturers that had been there for a long time, and the officers they had influence over had arms that spread throughout the institution and often blinded the senior officers into thinking that good management skills were the reason that lecturers were performing so well and that the students were so successful.

From statements 30 to 38, most lecturers felt that their only reward was financial in nature, on the surface the salary was substantial. The salary structure was peculiar, in that all western teachers would get the same salary regardless of qualifications, experience or family situations. TSI lecturers’ were on the whole either young, at the beginning of their career, or single older men at the end of their career. Middle aged, married men were few and far between, probably due to the expensive educational costs for children, relatively small housing allowances and a lack of professional development.

One of the biggest issues that foreign Arab lecturers’ came across was the discrepancy in their salaries, they earned about 65% less in comparison to their western colleagues. Many of them were educated in western universities and carry out exactly the same duties as the western lecturers, many as competently, if not more so. Initially I thought that this sub-group was formed for this reason alone, but on questioning the foreign Arab staff, it became clear that even though they felt the situation was unfair and that their salaries should be higher, nearly all of them had a strong belief in God, and believed that the amount of money that they will earn in their lifetime is pre-destined, so there was little point in making such an issue out of what was a relatively trivial point. A sub-culture was formed based on language and religion amongst the foreign lecturers where the Muslim Arab lecturers shared a bond through their language.

The Christian and Muslim lecturers form the western world that didn’t speak Arabic felt they couldn’t wholly be part of this group. Sometimes the western staff would be a little suspicious of conversations with the local Arab officers, primarily because they were not sure of what was being said, or what behind the scenes tactics were taking place. This balkanised culture that was the TSI had sub-groups that often competed with each other for influence over rapidly promoted local Arabs, who in the near future would weald a lot of influence and power due to new connections.

The controlling function of management seemed to be ignored by the management, and when designing the questionnaire, it was interesting that lecturers spent so little time discussing this area. Lecturers felt that management didn’t get involved until a problem/complaint arose, they went further saying it was possible to go through an employment contract (2 years) not knowing who their officer in charge actually was, as long as you kept your head down and didn’t bring attention to yourself.

The feeling of being autonomous in the classroom gave teachers a sense of freedom. Often lecturers would complain about the job, but regularly say they enjoyed their time in the classroom. There were biannual classroom observations for each lecturer, but these were carried out to highlight only the severest problems, The officers that would carry out the process, knew very little about education, and definitely had no training in how to assess a lecturers performance.

All students, officers, foreign Arabic speaking staff and about a quarter of the western staff were Muslim and had beliefs and values based on the Islamic religion. This became the underlying culture at the TSI. Ceremonies and rituals always began and ended with Allah in mind. The working day would be broken for prayers, where students, lecturers and officers lined up together to face Allah in prayer. This was the only time that one felt that an officers position was equal to that of a poor-achieving student. It was here that strong relationships were thought to have formed. Some of the western non-Muslim staff felt excluded and managed to form their own relationships with those Muslims amongst the officers, lecturers and students that didn’t pray, or even went out drinking on the quiet (considered an act against the Islamic religion).

Noticeable shared Islamic traditions were washing rituals, prayer, men with beards, respect for non-Muslims, concern for others, friendly relationships more caring and nurturing in attitude perhaps at the cost of progress, avoiding conflict where possible (western staff really noticed that there were never any flared tempers, or arguments, the Muslim officers and students would always back down first) recognising and respecting a hierarchy in authority as is expected through the family structure that Arabs adhere to with their father being the boss.

The extended family structure allows Muslims to collaborate on many decisions, even though this is seen at TSI when decisions are made, only a restricted group of people would be welcomed in the discussion, often based on previously formed relationships rather than bringing in expertise. Closed meetings were kept quiet and communication was poor, probably to avoid upsetting other members of staff that were being excluded. Consequently decisions were made, rules and regulations formalised and often staff could not guess where these decisions were being made or why.