x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dubai pupils caught in school rent row may have to repeat year

Hundreds of Pakistani children face having to repeat a year of education if their school is forced to close in April.

Al Farooq Pakistani school in Dubai could be closed down in April over a rent dispute.
Al Farooq Pakistani school in Dubai could be closed down in April over a rent dispute.

DUBAI // Hundreds of Pakistani children face having to repeat a year of education if their school is forced to close in April.

The Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School in Dubai could be closed down next year, and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) has suspended its licence.

If the closure goes ahead, many of its 900 pupils could be left without the certificate they need to start the next year of their schooling elsewhere.

The threat stems from a rent dispute between the school and its landlord, the Dubai Knowledge Fund.

The fund says Al Farooq has failed to pay its rent for the past two years.

The school insists it has paid. Ubaid Ur Rehman Akram, a spokesman for the school, said it has records to prove all dues have been settled.

But in September, the fund gave the school just three days to vacate, although that deadline was moved back to March.

At the same time, the KHDA barred Al Farooq from enrolling new pupils and said it would not renew the school's licence unless the dispute was resolved.

Without a licence, the 400 pupils who started at the school this academic year may not get the grade completion certificates they need to progress to the next year of education, be it at another school or at university. That could leave them having to repeat a whole year of school. "This is our biggest worry," said Mr Akram.

The head of the regulations and compliance commission at the KHDA, Mohammed Darwish, said the authority was "liaising and working with the other schools ... to find seats for all affected students."

He added: "[We will] facilitate the paperwork to ensure a smooth transfer of these students to other schools of their choice."

Many parents, meanwhile, feel powerless in the face of a serious threat to their children's future.

Mohammed Adnan fears his niece, who started in the primary section this year, could end up losing a year. "My brother enrolled her here because they came here from Pakistan very late in the year," said Mr Adnan. "And this was the only school that accepted her at the time." He would not mind if she went to a school that follows a different curriculum. "But if we cannot get a transfer certificate, she will have to repeat."

Faraj Saeed's three children also started at Al Farooq this year. "They were studying in Pakistan and when they came here this was the only school open for admission," he said. "I am not sure what I'll do next year if this school closes. It is troubling."

He wants his children to have a Pakistani education. "They have to go back one day so they need to study the curriculum. But there are only three schools within our budget here and this is not enough for the Pakistani community," said the father, who pays between Dh250 and Dh300 a month for each child.

Dr Zia Ul Hassan, president of the Pakistan Association in Dubai, said the association was looking into ways of helping with the situation at Al Farooq. "We have nominated the social welfare secretary to find out the issues the school is facing," said Dr Ul Hassan. "He will be visiting the school and work to find a solution for the children."

He said the association was concerned about the deteriorating standards at Pakistani schools.

"Most of the schools are run and managed directly or indirectly by the consulate, so we as a community are major stakeholders and are trying to assist in every way."

aahmed@thenational.ae