x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Gems fee rise given tentative OK

The furore surrounding a controversial fee increase at a Dubai Indian school may end before the school's new term begins.

The furore surrounding a controversial fee increase at a Dubai Indian school may end before the school's new term begins in late August. The owner of Dubai Modern High School, Sunny Varkey, has been tussling with education authorities for months over whether he can increase fees. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the government agency that oversees Dubai schools, has now granted permission for the fee increase - as soon as the auditorium at the school's new location is completed. Global Education Management Systems (Gems), which operates 26 schools in the Emirates, secured initial approval last year for a 90 per cent fee increase over two years at the Dubai Modern High School. The company maintained that the increase was required to finance a move to a new campus in Nad al Sheba. The Gems spokesman Richard Forbes said the Government ultimately would decide whether facilities at Dubai Modern were completed. "It is the KHDA that are responsible for conducting inspections of the school's facilities," Mr Forbes said, adding that the vast majority of parents with children at the school were happy with the new campus. But after the initial announcement of fee increases, the school faced a chorus of complaints from angry parents. The tiff culminated in protests outside the school in January, and the KHDA ruled that Gems could not impose its fee increase until the school had moved to the new, completed campus. In early May, the school moved, but the KHDA barred the fee increase until all "ongoing construction" was complete, setting off a conflict with Gems management, who insisted that the school was complete, according to the initial business plan it submitted to the KHDA. School officials called publicly for an investigation into KHDA decision-making. Gems plans to complete the auditorium when the new term starts. The KHDA will then inspect the premises. But some parents remain upset. Ray Chaudhuri, a member of a parent committee formed to fight the fee increase, complained yesterday that other facilities at the school, which he said were advertised on the school's website, remained incomplete. More than 600 parents are part of a Facebook group organised to fight the higher fees.
klewis@thenational.ae