American Embassy School reels under crisis after 40 teachers quit

American Embassy School reels under crisis after 40 teachers quit

The American Embassy School (AES) in New Delhi’s plush diplomatic enclave is deep in crisis after nearly 40 teachers quit as a fallout of last year’s India-US diplomatic row.

The staff is hoping that with a new Indian government in place, matters would mend soon. The school, one of the most elitist and expensive in the capital, is in the throes of a crisis after 40 teachers quit since March this year and more than a dozen were forced to return to the US to renew their visas, sources said.

“Over 40 teachers have left since March this year,” a source said, not wishing to be named being not authorised to speak on these sensitive issues. “While we do have teachers leaving regularly as their stay in India ends, this is unprecedented. We’ve never faced such a situation before,” said the source.

“We are all hoping that with the Modi government coming in, things will now get better and the crisis in the school will be over,” the source added.

The Obama administration is sending Nisha Desai Biswal, its point person for South and Central Asia, to India next week to hold talks with the new government on bilateral and regional issues.

The upcoming Biswal visit has also led to hopes that the AES crisis would soon be a thing of the past.

The teachers were forced to leave as a result of India tightening the screws on visa and tax laws in a tit-for-tat measure in a fallout of the India-US diplomatic spat over the arrest and strip-search in New York of diplomat Devyani Khobragade on charges of visa fraud and underpaying her nanny last year.

Before the diplomatic row, spouses of many American diplomatic officials – as well as Indian diplomats – would join the AES faculty as teachers.

They would not mention in their visa that they were working at the school, thereby avoiding paying tax.

The spouses of many US teachers hired by the AES would also end up as teachers without mentioning it in their visas.

This wink-and-nod agreement that had been going on for decades came apart in the wake of the Khobragade affair when India insisted on being given the full details of the US employees at the school and the taxes filed.

Besides the 40 teachers who have left, around 15 teachers were forced to return to the US to renew their visas.

“Earlier, the visas would get renewed here. But since March, 15 teachers have had to go back to the US to get their visas stamped,” the source added.

The school has 1,450 students, mainly from the diplomatic community as well as the children of corporate leaders. It has a swimming pool, tennis courts and soccer pitches besides vast athletic fields.