x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

No overnight relief for school crisis

Indian parents are this week facing the stark reality that their children might not be registered in schools come April. School officials can do more to help.

Many Indian parents are this week facing the stark reality that their children might not be registered in schools come April. And they are helpless to do anything about it.

As The National reported yesterday, hundreds of parents queued overnight on Friday in a scramble to find places in Indian schools for their children months before the start of the new academic year.

"No parent will mind standing in the rain and waiting all night but for those who did not get anything, now it is even more suffering," said Obeid Querishi, who arrived at 3.50am and was lucky to secure a place for his daughter in kindergarten.

The demand for school spaces has been triggered in large part by the closure of villa schools - which long-catered to the country's middle class - and by new Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) rules reducing class sizes.

As these Indian parents no doubt realise, the changes mean there is a real chance of their children missing out on the upcoming academic year, or alternatively, having to consider the possibility of moving back to India.

Such an outcome would be devastating for many of the Indian families that call the UAE home. But it would also have a major impact on this city.

The Indian students do have other options, but many parents want to give their children an education at an Indian school, of which there is a shortage in the capital. In the long-term, the onus is on private Indian businesses to establish extra schools that are accessible to the community.

But in the short-term, school officials should step in. Many parents are reluctant to enroll their children in far away schools; they cite transport and safety concerns, especially in light of the recent assault on a child aboard a school bus. School officials can help assuage these concerns by providing busing with vigilant supervision, female bus monitors and better employee screening.

That said, busing remains a temporary fix, and authorities must hasten to find a permanent solution.