DUBAI // Lawyers and education officials have stressed to parents that anyone who works as a private teacher is doing so illegally, after a series of court cases involving tutors accused of molesting their pupils.
At least 11 cases have been prosecuted in the Dubai criminal courts since January last year. The most recent involves a tutor accused of molesting four girls aged between seven and 11.
In a case last week in the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance, an Egyptian clerk was accused of molesting three girls he had been teaching for three years.
Many parents are tempted to hire private teachers to give their children more personalised learning. But UAE law prohibits such teachers, according to the Ministry of Education. Teaching visas are issued only to teachers affiliated to schools, and private citizens cannot sponsor them.
Anyone teaching privately is breaking immigration laws by not working for their visa sponsor or not having a visa at all. Even an imam who gives Quran lessons can do so only if registered to an emirate's Islamic affairs department and if the lessons are conducted in the mosque.
"There will be no refuge for those who practise this outside their current scope and without the permission of KHDA," said Mohammed Darwich, the chief of regulations and compliance commission of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
The consequences could include a prison sentence, according to Dr Ali al Jarman, a Dubai-based managing partner at Prestige Advocates.
"They can be charged with illegal employment under a different sponsor, which carries deportation, jail time and a heavy fine," he said. "The parents can be prosecuted and be fined up to Dh50,000 and face jail and deportation."
Most schools offer after-hours programmes to help children who needed extra attention, education officials say.
"Even if there is a weakness in the child's learning, there are competent and authorised institutions to do tutoring, but not in a teacher's home," said a spokesman for the Sharjah Education Zone.
Abdullah Amin, of the Sharjah Education Zone, said only a few private tutors were properly trained. Many were university students and others used visit visas, he said. He warned that licensed teachers who were found guilty could be banned from teaching and that people on visit visas would be deported.
Schools in the UAE have recorded that more than 60 per cent of their pupils from Grade 10 and up sought after-school support, according to Professor Mark Bray, the author of Confronting the Shadow Education System: What Government Policies for What Private Tutoring?
"Some parents feel that they are being a good parent if they send their children for tutoring - and if they do not, they have a finger pointing at them," he said. Private tutoring cannot be eliminated but can be regulated, he added.
"There is a need to raise awareness with parents and address the concept that you are a good parent if you send them for tutoring," he said.
"KHDA is in the process of conducting a thorough study, involving other concerned parties [including schools, pupils and parents] and looking at the larger picture with a view to drafting regulations for this sector if deemed necessary. At all times, the recommendations for the policy will seek to enhance education provision in general," Mr Darwich said. "KHDA encourages schools to take a keen interest in the student's learning and development so that the students do not need private tutoring."
A report released last year by the Abu Dhabi Department for Economic Development said that 27 per cent of Emirati families hired private tutors, spending on average Dh1,436 per month.