DUBAI // Kindergarten pupils weren't the only ones getting to grips with their surroundings at His Highness Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School in Al Qusais yesterday - it was the principal's first day, too.
Dr Abdur Rashid took the helm after a summer in which the school was rated only "acceptable" by inspectors from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
Dubai's other two Pakistani schools were "unsatisfactory", the inspectors said.
Mr Rashid, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Pakistani army, is determined to reinvigorate the school and has a strategic plan to boost standards.
"In general, Pakistani schools are not well funded and rely heavily on donations from the public," he said. "Having said that, everyone associated with the school wants to make it better."
Pupils were enthusiastic as classes resumed yesterday.
Mohammed Hamza, 17, has been at the school for seven years. "The teaching is a lot better than when I first started here," he said, "and I really enjoy being here with my friends."
Afshan Zahra, 17, is in her final year at the girls' section of the school, and is now considering whether to go to college in the UAE of back to Pakistan.
"I'm really glad school is back because I've missed my friends and I love being here."
She is studying business and economics and hope to go into further education when she finishes this year.
Steps have already been taken to address criticisms levelled at the school last year, with 10 new teachers expected to start work in the next week, adding to the staff of 60.
This will help the school to meet Ministry of Education guidelines on class sizes: no larger than 25 for the lower school and 30 for the seniors.
The school, which opened in 1995, caters for 1,400 boys and girls, mainly from lower-income families.
Its budget is largely generated through fund-raising and the Pakistani consulate plays a key role in running it.
"We charge a nominal monthly fee of between Dh260 and Dh300 to make it as affordable as possible," Mr Rashid said.
The school is heavily reliant on the goodwill of the Pakistani business community in Dubai, which has already contributed 30 per cent of the cost of a Dh2.3 million extension to the boys' wing.
This is expected to be opened within weeks once the final paperwork has been completed, adding more than a dozen new classrooms.