x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Losing out in the education lottery

Mother has spent two years seeking school place for her daughter

ABU DHABI // Rani Anand spends most of her time on the road, driving between her work, in Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, where she visits her nine-year-old daughter and her husband. She has been trying to secure a spot for her daughter in one of the capital's Indian schools for the past two years without success.

Mrs Anand, a librarian at a federal university in Abu Dhabi since May last year, said: "When I took this job, I never thought it would be such a big problem. I don't know how to get recommendations for her to enter one of the schools."

At least once a week, Mrs Anand calls a list of schools in Abu Dhabi to see if they are able to accommodate her daughter.

"I cannot travel daily and we have the expense of two apartments now," she said.

In May last year, it was too late to apply for the academic year that started in April. So Mrs Anand waited until mid-semester in September and applied to three schools in Abu Dhabi with no luck. She has continued to try since then, but so far is not hopeful of success.

"At first, [my daughter] was very sad. I kept convincing her that I will take her with me to live in Abu Dhabi. Now she has adjusted," she said. "But it is better for her to stay with her mother. I cannot supervise her education every day and I cannot give her the support and dedication she needs from her mother."

Mrs Anand said a number of her friends faced similar commutes from family homes in Dubai or Sharjah to workplaces in Abu Dhabi.

Some of her friends with children entering kindergarten this year are already worried about next year.

"They say, 'Our headache has started'. They already know it is not easy. We all have jobs. We are all very busy with our lives but we have to keep trying."

Some schools with space constraints have started using a lottery draw, where names of children are randomly picked from a pool, while others are operating on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Mrs Anand is hedging her bets.

"For me the lottery system is almost better. At least then luck is on my side."