x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bell rings for the last time as Pakistani school shuts down in Dubai

A thousand pupils at Dubai's Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School leave midway through their revision lessons after row over Dh1.4 million in rent

Parents pick up their children after school at the Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School in Deira. Half of the pupils are still enrolled. Pawan Singh / The National
Parents pick up their children after school at the Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School in Deira. Half of the pupils are still enrolled. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // The bell at Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School in Hor Al Anz sounded midway through revision lessons for Grade 10 pupils yesterday, signalling the closure of the school for good.

The Grade 10s, who are taking their final board exams, were the only pupils on campus at the time. The rest of the thousand-strong student body was due to return to school today.

Geography teacher Aqeel Ahmad said he was halfway through a lesson when he noticed police and Knowledge Fund officials arriving.

"We saw officials and police on the campus and then the bell to end sessions went off earlier than usual," he said. "We were asked to leave the campus."

The evacuation and boarding up of the school comes seven months after school administrators were issued with an eviction notice because they failed to pay rent.

The school has rented the government building from the Knowledge Fund since 2009, but officials said their contract was suspended when the school failed to pay Dh1.4 million in rent. The school owners maintain this is not the case.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), Dubai's private school regulator, immediately suspended Al Farooq's operating licence after the contract was cancelled.

Earlier this month, the KHDA urged parents to withdraw their children from the school and look for alternatives.

"[The school] has not been successful in resolving the issues connected with its premises," said Mohammed Darwish, chief of the Regulations and Compliance Commission at KHDA.

The authority said it had liaised with the two other Pakistani schools in Dubai to accommodate half of the pupils.

Ubaid Ur Rahman Akram, a spokesman for the school, said more than half of the pupils were still enrolled at the school that caters to middle and low-income families.

"We sent out a circular to parents today informing them that the school will be shut tomorrow," he said, adding they had been aware of the deadline but were hoping for an extension.

"We thought they would understand our position and that of the hundreds of families that will be affected by the decision. But today they just came in and locked our gates."

Al Farooq administrators had asked the KHDA for an extension at the campus until their own campus is completed in two years' time. "We even tried approaching other entities – schools – to try to get a building for a while. But nothing worked out," said Mr Akram. "We need some time, but the authorities have not yet agreed to this."

Mr Ahmad, along with 65 other staff members at the school, said he had been assured the matter would be resolved.

"I do not know what we will do. If nothing works out, we will be out of a job," he said.

"We will go tomorrow and stand outside to see what the next announcement is."

The Grade 10s will be able to continue writing their final exams, which they have been taking at an official exam centre: the Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School.