x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

School has 'nightmare' trying to get faster internet

Almost 900 pupils suffer as 'virtual learning environment' crashes on faulty du connection, officials say.

Regent International School says it has been 'paralysed' by the lack of a high-speed internet connection from du.
Regent International School says it has been 'paralysed' by the lack of a high-speed internet connection from du.

DUBAI //A school's request for a faster internet connection from telecommunications operator du has become a "nightmare", with staff and pupils still waiting for the upgrade three months after they requested it, they said.

Managers at Regent International Schoolin the Greens, which has almost 900 pupils, said the school relies heavily on the internet because it uses a virtual learning environment (VLE).

The school's managing director, Sanjay Mankani, said it became crucial for the school to get the upgrade after installing the new system.

VLE is an extension of the school's intranet system, which is supposed to allow pupils, staff and parents to access reports, homework and other educational services in real-time.

But the system depends on a fast internet connection to be effective.

Since putting in a request for an upgrade, Mr Mankani said, the school has also suffered repeated cuts to its internet connection, resulting in children being unable to do their homework.

Du responded that the problem had been rectified on Friday. However, school staff said there had been no upgrade, and the system was still running at the slower speed.

The school, which currently has an internet speed of 2mbps, wanted to increase itto 16mbps.

"It's very frustrating that for almost four months du has been unable to get our speed to the level we want," Mr Mankani said.

"This delay has impacted on everyone, from the pupils to staff and parents, because the new system has been so slow."

He said he had been reluctant to contact the media, but felt he had been left with no option after repeated problems with the service.

The school requested the upgrade on October 24 last year and, school officials said, they were told the increase in speed would be immediate.

"It was a routine request for a fibre-optic upgrade and, till now, we still haven't got it," said Mr Mankani.

"Instead, we have had serious disruption of our internet connection in December: it went down for the whole day on five occasions, and for part of the day four other times that month. It's been a nightmare."

In a letter of complaint that Mr Mankani sent to du on January 6, he said the school had been "paralysed" by the outages and the slow web connection.

In all, the school has made five complaints to du since October 24, and engineers have been called out on seven occasions to resolve the issue, but to no avail.

According to the letter, the engineers told the school the problem was related to du's fibre-optic cable.

On December 2, however, du disconnected the school's internet service after incorrectly recording a complaint as non-payment of bills.

It took two days for the mistake to be corrected.

"It's become a real irritation because every time it goes off, we can't log on to the VLE and everything is on there," said Lisa Graham, a parent from Britain with three children at the school.

"When the children get assigned homework, it is through the VLE, and the idea is to go through it with them at home on the computer so you can help them. But there have been a number of occasions when we haven't been able to connect, and so couldn't do the homework," she added.

Michelle Pinto, an Indian expatriate with two children at the school, agreed.

"The problem is that everything is online with VLE, and this includes letters, assignments and trips [permission slips], so when it goes down there's no communication between the school and parents," she said.

"We are paying about Dh70,000 to Dh75,000 in school fees for my children, and the problems are having a knock-on effect with their education," she said.

She added that the problem re-emerged over the weekend when the system again went down.

A statement from du said: "A technician will visit the premises and will look into the matter. The school has been informed of the same."

nhanif@thenational.ae