x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Ministry to fix AC units in schools over the holiday

The Ministry of Education plans to fix broken AC units in schools during the summer holidays, but that may not be soon enough for some.

DUBAI // With temperatures soaring and more than a month to go before the end of the school year, air conditioning is as essential to the learning process as textbooks.

But several public schools say they have ongoing problems with their cooling units. In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Education said it knew of 7,000 faulty AC units in schools and would fix these during the summer holidays.

According to the ministry, there are 63,000 portable air-conditioning units and 15,000 central air-conditioning units in 440 public schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. The ministry has said it is conducting a survey of air-conditioning equipment in schools to identify "issues or potential malfunctions".

"We have communicated with all education institutions to identify their needs and prepare for the summer season and the new academic year," said Najeeba Yousef, the head of the ministry's education buildings and amenities department.

"The maintenance of all air conditioners will be completed during the summer holiday."

The principal of Ibn Al Nafees Primary School for Boys in Fujairah, Jawaher Obaid, said she had heard the ministry would visit the school to analyse which units are not working and then fix them.

"The ministry said they would come and fix our AC, and they usually do before the summer," she said.

But Hassan Ghezlan, the principal of Al Tumb School in Ras al Khaimah, said he had yet to hear anything of the plans to fix AC units during the summer holidays.

"No one has come for us," he said. "The AC window unit is not practical at all and it's very loud as there are three units in each class. Students always complain they can't hear the teacher while in the classroom."

Al Sufouh School for Girls in Dubai has paid for 26 AC units themselves to fix the problem of stuffy classrooms. Amina al Falasi, the principal's assistant at the school, said: "Whenever a maintenance man comes to fix the AC and we ask him whether he is finished or not, he says 'yes', but we never really know if he did. Sometimes when we open the AC, there is still some dust coming out. Someone from the Ministry of Education still needs to follow up with the maintenance to make sure it's done properly."

Schools are expected to call the Ministry of Education hotline, 800 5115, to report problems with facilities. Once a complaint is logged, the ministry has said in previous statements that they will respond within five to 10 days.

"We have been in touch with the ministry," said Mr Ghezlan. "The problem is not telling them about the AC, but actually getting someone to come out here and do something about it. They have been to some of the schools, but not all of them."

The Ministry of Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Alyaa Salim, a pupil in Grade 11 at Al Mahdab School in Fujairah, said their AC does break at times, but even when they come to fix it, it is still not cool enough.

"We still feel hot and for us as students we cannot focus in the heat," she said.

Rami Jawad is in Grade 12 at Neeman Bin Bashir Secondary School for boys in Ajman, and says there are no more problems at his school. "Before this year the air conditioning was either not working or very noisy," he said. "But they changed the AC at the beginning of this year and it's OK now."

aalhaddad@thenational.ae