More Than A Tutor - In Poland, Training The 21st Century Governess

Pillow fight in Warsaw
Pillow fight in Warsaw
Justyna Suchecka

WARSAW - Children’s education used to be in hands of educated women – for whom it was the only way to make a living – or less well-off students. Many famous writers and scientists have held this position at some point in their life.

The governess may seem like a thing of the past, but they are coming back in vogue – with their new male incarnation alongside.

“There will always be a demand for people who have teaching skills and who are also able to develop a child's artistic and linguistic talents,” says Professor Miroslaw Smialek, Dean of the Faculty of Pedagogy and Fine Arts of The University of Adam Mickiewicz, Kalisz, in central Poland. That’s why in October the university will inaugurate its first bachelor’s degree for qualified governesses and full-time tutors.

The creation of the new specialization was spurred by a survey of parents, which revealed a strong demand for a professional, home-based education for their children, and that parents were willing to pay a good price for it.

The new bachelors’ degree combines a variety of academic fields like pedagogy or courses for teaching music and visual arts. “Our graduates will also be able to teach English, because we work with the language department,” says Smialek. “After the three-year diploma,” he adds, “if you don’t find work as a governess or a tutor, you will be qualified to work in a school or kindergarten.”

What do the parents look for when hiring a governess? According to Monika Jakubiak, the owner of the MJ Governess Agency: “A pedagogical and a psychological preparation are mandatory. There’s a demand for first aid certification and knowledge of English. Any other language is a plus.”

Three times the average wage

In Poland, the market for nannies and tutoring is traditionally dominated by women. However, the new diploma is also aimed at men: “Being a male full-time tutor is not a profession but a vocation,” says Smialek. “I used to have a student, a very athletic man who didn’t really match the stereotype of a nanny. When I asked him where he wanted to work, he replied: only in a kindergarten. That’s what he’s doing now and I know that children love him.”

Monika Jakubiak has 56 families on her books. Two of them have male full-time tutors. One of them is Swedish, a native speaker who has many artistic talents. The second studied sports and physiotherapy. He was recruited for a child who needed some additional stimulation for physical activity. They really get along.

How much does a governess or a tutor make? Native speakers with some very specific skills have wages up to 10,000 zlotys (about 2,400 euros) whereas the average pay is about 880 euro a month. In Warsaw however, one can hire a live-in tutor for 2,300 zlotys (about 550 euros).

According to Jakubiak, there are no parental demands that cannot be fulfilled. “I’ve just recruited a girl who matched the profile of being both a native Russian and graduate in visual arts. Some governesses have to be wiling to move to another city. I refuse only when parents want somebody for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re not supposed to replace them. We’re only there to help.”

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!