ABU DHABI // Residents near a school in Khalidiya say they are awakened each morning by the sound of its roll-call being read over a public-address system. Neighbours say Al Mashreq Private School's 7.45am roll-call is so loud they have to turn up the radio to hear it over the announcement.
All that, however, should come to an end in a few short weeks. But for now, residents must put up with a break from morning routines. Tobias Heil, who lives 150 metres from the villa school, said the roll-call was more like a military operation. "They shout at the children in such a way, it is like a boot camp every morning over there," he said. Gaby Heil, Mr Heil's mother, said the noise began two years ago, shortly after the family moved into the villa compound.
"We moved in during the summer, so we didn't notice it. But once the school term started, so too did the noise." The school said that it was following the law, and added that it will close permanently in a few weeks as part of the Abu Dhabi Education Council's efforts to shut all villa schools. "We are not disturbing anybody," said the school's deputy principal, who requested anonymity. "Only one person complained and we told him we had to do it. It is the law [to read the roll-call].
"There are only two weeks left in the school term and then there are exams. After that, there will be no more noise for these neighbours." The Heil family said they lived next to a primary school in Germany and never had a problem. "We don't mind living next to a school, its bells or the sound of children playing. The problem is the speaker system, which is so loud," Mrs Heil said. Pradeep Mahaedra, 34, a cook who lives in the same compound as the Heils, said he hears the roll-call every morning but would not complain because it was a school.
"I do not want to disturb them," he said. "It is loud and it wakes me most mornings. I work late nights most of the time and it is annoying because it wakes me up. "I don't mind waking up early but I do on my day off, which is never at the weekend when there is no noise." Adil Khan, 42, a Pakistani who works in finance, said he cannot talk on the phone during the announcement if he is working from home. "I sometimes work from home and if it starts off later in the morning and I am on the phone, I have to call them back after it's finished," Mr Khan said.
He said he knew it was a school and did not mind the noise of children screaming, but the volume of the morning's roll-call should be turned down. "I moved in here over a weekend and the first Sunday morning, I was sorry I did," he said. "I was then told that it is closing at the end of the term so that is the end of that." The deputy principle said the volume was already at an acceptable level: "We can't turn it down. It is the law. We can't change that." Meanwhile residents are counting down the weeks. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org This article has been corrected to reflect the Abu Dhabi Education Council was closing down villa schools not the Ministry of Education.