Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Dubai's Hope Academy to offer Dh1,000 per year education for children forced to drop out of school

Education technology company Coded Minds has launched initiative to ensure pupils are not priced out of learning

Omar Farooqui, founder of Coded Minds, wants to open up access to education to all through the new Hope Academy. Pawan Singh/The National  
Omar Farooqui, founder of Coded Minds, wants to open up access to education to all through the new Hope Academy. Pawan Singh/The National  

Hard-hit Dubai parents forced to pull their children out of school due to financial troubles have won a vital lifeline thanks to a new community initiative offering education for just Dh1,000 per year.

Coded Minds, a Dubai-based education technology firm, has launched Hope Academy, a pioneering project providing a safety net to children who have dropped out of mainstream education.

Pupils from kindergarten through to grade 8 - from the ages of five to 15 - will be taught the core subjects of information technology, mathematics, science, social science and English.

Coded Minds is recruiting teachers to work full and part-time, while businesses and embassies have come forward to offer venues and sponsorship for the fledgling scheme.

Omar Farooqui, founder of Coded Minds, said the academy will help address the need for alternative forms of education for families in trying circumstances.

"Our aim was to make education accessible for everyone. Children cannot just stay at home," said Mr Farooqui.

"Providing coaching at only Dh1,000 a year is a radical change in the ideology of education as a business as the fee is significantly lower than even affordable schools.

"We have so many people who have registered with us and are desperately in need of an option."

Since the initiative was announced earlier this month, Hope Academy has received inquiries on behalf of 3,500 pupils, with about 800 already registering.

Learners will receive 15 hours of teaching per week, spread across three sessions.

The academy, which is to hold its first lessons on October 13, does not follow a set curriculum or provide examinations.

It is being rolled out in an effort to ensure children receive valuable education while they are unable to attend school.

Our aim was to make education accessible for everyone

Omar Farooqui

"We have families coming to us where a parent has passed away and some parents who have faced financial downturn," said Mr Farooqui.

"The families are not all underprivileged and some pupils were attending expensive schools until last year, but had to drop out."

Fees at Dubai's private schools vary widely. British curriculum Apple International School charged Dh8,530 in foundation stage in the current school year, while fees at Brighton College Dubai are set at Dh53,550.

Shazia, a 40-year-old Pakistani parent in Dubai, said her two children had to withdraw from school for three years when her husband's business collapsed.

"My children suffered a lot because there are no economical schools in Dubai. The children lost their confidence and struggled. We avoided meeting people at that time," said Shazia, who asked for her surname to be withheld.

"One day, the children came back with a note saying that they could not be in school the next day and they were traumatised."

The family didn't allow their children to play out with their friends in order to avoid questions about their schooling.

Shazia, who is a teacher at a British curriculum school in Dubai, took time out from her job to educate her children at home and made sure they had a disciplined schedule.

"We need affordable schools in Dubai. When there is financial trouble, there is a depressing atmosphere at home and the burden rubs off on children," she said.

"The authorities do so much charity. They should ensure that children do not lose out on education."

She said the Hope Academy initiative would help children who are at stuck at home.

"Children would get the chance to leave their homes for a few hours and be around peers and play with their friends," she said.

"My children missed on many of these experiences and bonds they could have made at that age."

SM, an Indian resident who works in management consulting and recruitment, said he had to pull his children out of school this year and will be sending them to Hope Academy.

"We need economical schools in Dubai. Since my children are at home, sending them to Hope Academy will help me," said SM, who did not wish for his full name to be published.

He said parents are often busy with work and do not have time to teach their children at home.

"It is a coaching class to involve children and ensure they stay in touch with education.

"They will not be getting a degree but the classes will give them a chance to learn and go back to school once the parents' financial situation improves."

Updated: October 1, 2019 12:15 PM

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