x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dubai US school defies regulator again over 'security update'

The school has been in trouble with the KHDA since August, when it was ordered to stop enrolling pupils after it failed seven rounds of inspections.

The KHDA said the school was not allowed to dismiss pupils or install security cameras without first seeking its approval.
The KHDA said the school was not allowed to dismiss pupils or install security cameras without first seeking its approval.

DUBAI //School bosses who defied a ban on enrolling new pupils have broken the rules again by cancelling classes to install new security.

Dubai American Scientific School asked parents on Saturday to keep their children home until Thursday. It said it was updating systems, including CCTV cameras, as required by a US consulate notification about "the political climate in the Middle East".

In fact, the consulate has issued only one notice, in response to regional unrest over an anti-Islamic video, in which it says it expects no such problems in the UAE.

In addition, suspending classes and installing cameras both require permission from education regulators. "This has obliged us to take further punitive action," said Abdulrahman Nassir of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which oversees the operation of private schools in the emirate.

The school has been in trouble with the KHDA since August, when it was ordered to stop enrolling pupils after it failed seven rounds of inspections.

The safety of pupils, attendance rates and teaching quality were all rated unsatisfactory, and apart from a few teachers the school's staff is unlicensed.

When the school's management ignored the order and enrolled 125 pupils for the current academic year, the KHDA suspended its licence.

"We are unclear about our status with the school," one recently appointed teacher said yesterday. "It's all such a big mess."

Many new teachers are still on visit visas and have not received work permits to teach.

One teacher from the United States said he was appointed without any reference check. "That worried me a bit because all the others were appointed the same way. Several have never been in a classroom before."

In a memo sent to parents on Saturday the school said it had hired a team of American teachers to deliver a US-Core Standards curriculum and was now registered with the Warden's List at the US consulate.

"Subsequently, we are now obliged to take into consideration all US Consulate Security Notifications. Given the recent alert advice from the US Consulate regarding the political climate in the Middle East, over the next few days we are putting into place additional security systems," the memo said.

"Because there will be engineers and workmen working throughout the school for the next few days, we are asking parents to keep their children at home until Thursday morning when normal classes will resume."

Parents were told an e-campus system was being installed and that CCTV cameras in the school and around campus were being updated. According to the letter, the school was also hiring VIP security to monitor the campus.

A spokesman for the US consulate said the only security information sent out to US citizens was a reminder issued on September 16. "The US Mission affirmed that, while we do not anticipate that events such as those seen in other parts of the region will take place in the UAE, people should remain alert, aware of their surroundings and follow local developments," he said.

The KHDA said the school was not allowed to dismiss pupils or install security cameras without first seeking its approval.

"Dubai American Scientific school has further violated the terms of its suspended education permit by dismissing students for a week to install security cameras," said Mr Nassir, executive director of customers relations at the authority. "To install cameras or dismiss students on a school day for any purpose, prior KHDA approval must be given."

He said the school had not prioritised the interests of the pupils.

There were no security personnel at the main entrance to the school yesterday, but several parents arrived to meet management staff.

Many said they were confused about the sudden closure. One parent of a three-year-old boy who enrolled this year said she was looking for a new school. "We are told there are issues between the operator and the KHDA and that they will be sorted.

"But there is so much confusion that it does not seem like it is going to. I am now running to different schools to find a place for my son."

The KHDA has warned that new pupils enrolled at the school will not have their certificates attested. Without an attested certificate, pupils cannot transfer to the same grade at another school and cannot be admitted to university.

It has offered to help parents to find new schools, but so far only about 20 parents have sought assistance.

aahmed@thenational.ae