x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Villa schools warned over safety standards

Ten schools were issued with warnings from the education council for being hazardous to staff and pupils.

ABU DHABI // Ten villa schools that are considered hazardous to staff and pupils have received a written warning from the education authority telling them to improve or face closure.

This is the second warning sent by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) to the schools, in the capital and Al Ain. The first warning went out on March 7.

The letters highlighted health and safety concerns, which authorities said posed a serious threat to staff and students on the premises.

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After a third warning, which will be sent in a week's time, officials will take action including financial penalties and closure.

"We want to make sure the community is aware that these school are not complying with our standards and are risking the lives of the students," said Pierre Scottorn, the section manager of the Private School Improvement department at Adec.

"We have notified the schools about their violations and have given them time to make the necessary changes. At the same time, we want the parents to know that their child's school might face closure this year."

Schools have been asked to inform the parents of the consequences as well.

Schools that are not based in purpose-built facilities have been found to be overcrowded, with narrow corridors among other fire safety hazards.

School operators said they thought they had until 2013 to move out of villas, but in March the authority announced its plan to phase out such schools, with as many as 10 schools facing closure by June.

The recent warning letters to schools do not give an ultimatum to move out, which has caused more confusion, according to some operators.

A principal of one school that received the letter of warning said they were still not sure if they would be closed. "First we were told we had till 2013, and this warning does not give us a definite period either," said the principal, who did not wish to be named.

He said one of the issues raised by Adec during their inspection was that of class size. "They said we need to reduce the number of students, but how can we do that now, in the middle of the year?"

The principal of the Al Bustan Private School, which is also on the warning list, said the school had applied to move into a vacant government building while the management developed a new campus.

"We have every possible safety measure at the moment in our school, but Adec's concerns are also valid," said Maha Ramzi, whose school is located on a busy street in the capital, making it dangerous for students to enter and exit the campus.

aahmed@thenational.ae

Written warnings have been sent out to the following schools:

Abu Dhabi

• Al Noor Indian Islamic School
• Leens Kindergarten and School
• Barem al Aqsa Private School
• Salahuddin Private School
• Al Bustan Private School

Al Ain

• Oasis Private School
• New Hilal Private School
• International Private School
• Zahrat al Madain Private School
• Al Amal Private School