Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 August 2019

Abu Dhabi school switch parents fear for fees

After the owner of a Filipino school is removed, regulator tells families to turn to the police to recover missing money.
Parents of pupils at 21st Century Private Academy in Abu Dhabi fear for the fees they have paid to the school. Christopher Pike / The National
Parents of pupils at 21st Century Private Academy in Abu Dhabi fear for the fees they have paid to the school. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // With just days to go until the new term, parents of children at a Filipino school fear they may have lost thousands of dirhams in tuition fees after Adec removed the school’s owner for being uncooperative with the education regulator.

However, many of the parents of the 2,055 pupils at 21st Century Private Academy had paid fees for the upcoming year, which cost between Dh4,300 to Dh6,700 per student, and attempts to track down the owner have been unsuccessful, they said.

They have been advised by Adec to contact the police.

“Our main concern in this issue is the reimbursement or refund of our full payments,” said D P, a father of three who paid more than Dh22,000 in June when the school offered a Dh500 discount to parents who paid in full early.

The operator, American Companies Management Group, has so far not contacted parents about a refund of their money.

Despite numerous requests, the company has declined to comment to The National.

Abu Dhabi Education Council said it is advising parents to seek help from the police in reclaiming the money they paid in tuition for the upcoming academic year, which begins on Sunday.

“As per the law, no fees should be paid for undelivered services. As such, parents are encouraged and are directed to file suit against the previous operator who is obliged by law to return all the monies collected for services undelivered,” Adec said.

The private school regulator also said it has “lodged a case against the previous operator,” for sending parents a text message on August 8 offering discounts for tuition paid in full.

Parents were notified by an Adec text message the school’s operator would be replaced.

“The SMS message was sent to parents on Saturday, August 8, 2015, as soon as Adec got to know that the school operator had communicated via SMS to parents their willingness to offer discounts for enrolment for the 2015-2016 school year despite receiving the closure decree,” Adec said.

“Adec, as the regulatory body and in order to protect the parents, has lodged a case against the previous operator so as to protect parents against deception and the fraudulent claims of the 2015-2016 SMS the operator sent to parents. Also, Adec has replied to the Philippines embassy personnel who communicated with them and to most parents who approached Adec to go and file suit, and the responsible authorities shall take all actions to ensure that unauthorised monies collected by the ex-operator shall return to parents.”

Lizabeth Comia, who has been principal of the school since 2011, said talks to find a new operator began in July between Adec and the owners.

She said she had been told earlier this summer that staff at the school, about 100 teachers and administrators, would remain employed and that only the operator or owner would change. But, as of Wednesday, she had yet to receive any communication from Adec or the new operator. Some of her staff resigned to find jobs elsewhere.

“I’m still at home waiting, but there is no official announcement yet,” Mrs Comia said. “We haven’t met yet.”

Adec said that the new operator will “accept all the students who attended the school last year”.

“A new operator will take over the building with the students that already registered with the previous operator. The students will remain in their school. No alternative placements is needed unless parents would wish to move their children. Adec has assigned the building to a new operator who will start running it with the same curriculum and tuition fees,” the education council said.

D P said he hoped Adec could provide parents with more assistance in recovering the money, adding that parents would not have paid the tuition in June if they had been notified earlier by Adec that a closure was imminent.

“If Adec is and always has been in equal partnership with parents, then they should have provided us more assistance in recovering the payments we made to the old operator. They know that they can do more since the old operator has several businesses such as this across UAE,” D P said. “Since the tuition fees are all the same, why can’t just Adec arrange a meeting between the old and new operator and make the necessary arrangements to transfer of all the payments made by parents?”

American Companies Management Group, or ACMG, also owns Al Dana Nurseries through one of its many subsidiary companies. According to the company’s website, its chairman, Sultan Al Hosani, who parents and staff refer to as the owner of the school, “has worked for Abu Dhabi Education Council in the School and Institute Licensing Department”.

An official with Adec confirmed Mr Al Hosani was once an employee but is no longer with the company.

“We parents, we don’t know where to go because we went to Adec and they only said go to the old operator. We went to the villa or the main office of Mr Sultan, which is the operator, but he was nowhere to be found,” said Mrs D P, who has three children at the school.

rpennington@thenational.ae

Updated: August 26, 2015 04:00 AM

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