x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

School fees fund buys hope

Indian committee tackles desperate social problem by providing money for academic costs owed by those in financial distress.

The fund was set up in October last year to help expatriate Indian families pay school and medical fees.
The fund was set up in October last year to help expatriate Indian families pay school and medical fees.

DUBAI // A new Indian fund supporting children of families in financial distress has paid more than Dh500,000 in school fees in the past three months.

"The priority has been given to higher-class students," said K Kumar, the chairman of the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC), which looks at applications and requests from schools and families.

"We have paid half a million dirhams since the fund was set up. Students in Grades 10 and 12 are given automatic priority."

The fund was set up in October last year to help expatriate Indian families pay school and medical fees, for provisions and temporary shelter to battle problems brought on by financial hardship, such as suicide.

Less than 10 days ago police went to the home of an Indian family in Bur Dubai and found two bodies.

Police said the father, Rijesh Nambiar, was found hanged in his flat and his six-year-old daughter had been suffocated with a pillow.

The mother, Sreesha Nambiar, 29, was found in the bathroom with cuts to her neck and wrist.

Police said a note left by the father cited financial problems.

Mrs Nambiar has been charged with attempted suicide and is in the psychiatric ward at Rashid Hospital. Relatives said she had no recollection of the events and was unaware her husband and child were dead.

Since the fund's launch, money has gone towards paying school fees owed by parents for the past two years.

"We write to schools to confirm if the case is genuine," said Mr Kumar, adding that several requests from parents involved fees owed since 2010.

He said the fund was not for paying off bad debts and that "bounced cheque issues still remain".

Mr Kumar did not specify how many families had benefited from the fund.

A study by the Indian consulate of 110 suicides in Dubai and the Northern Emirates showed most cases involved middle-class men with white-collar jobs.

Figures released by Indian diplomatic missions show that last year about 100 Indian expatriates committed suicide in the UAE.

In 2010, about 110 Indians killed themselves in Dubai and the Northern Emirates alone, and 113 did so in 2009, the figures show.

"We are trying to alleviate the situation of Indian families," said Siddharth Balachandran, the Indian managing director of the building materials company Bumga Group, who made the first contribution of Dh500,000 to the fund.

"The reason why I kick-started it is so that other people would join in."

An Indian social worker said it was important that families lived within their means to avoid problems.

"Awareness should be created in the community about managing their finances properly," said AK Sethunath, the president of the Ras Al Khaimah welfare group Kerala Samajam.

"People should think through before taking loans or applying for several credit cards," he said, adding that not doing so could lead to depression and desperate measures.

Mr Sethunath said financial institutions also had a role to play. He said: "Banks should also study the financial ability of a person to pay back loans before sanctioning money or giving people five or six credit cards."

pkannan@thenational.ae