Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 16 October 2019

Principal of ‘weak’ Pakistani school in Abu Dhabi has an ‘outstanding’ goal

After 15 months in charge, Mr Saggu has lifted the school out of the ‘weak’ category to ‘satisfactory’ in the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s annual report.
Abdul Qudus Saggu, principal of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School in Abu Dhabi, has a four-year plan to lift standards. Christopher Pike / The National
Abdul Qudus Saggu, principal of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School in Abu Dhabi, has a four-year plan to lift standards. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // Abdul Qudus Saggu has a four-year plan to lift standards at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School, and he has made a good start – without fee rises.

After 15 months in charge, Mr Saggu has lifted the school out of the “weak” category to “satisfactory” – a first for a Pakistani school – in the Abu Dhabi Education Council’s annual report.

The principal attributes most of his early success to spreading positive attitude and cleaning up school management.

“The toughest task was to eliminate negativity, low morale and corruption in the administration, which were draining the collective energy of the school,” Mr Saggu said.

“Throughout the year, I stood at the gate in the morning to greet students and parents.”

He rid the school of substandard, non-inspiring teachers, and introduced an environment where taunts and shouting at pupils would not be tolerated.

He identified a lack of incentives for staff and operational freedom as major factors in the school’s “weak” rating over the past six years.

“The school needs at least four more years to qualify as ‘outstanding’,” Mr Saggu said. “If we continue to improve operational and teaching skills, we will achieve the outstanding category by 2021.”

In its private school inspection report for 2016 to 2017, the authority highlighted problems with teaching, particularly in Arabic.

It pointed to issues with the health and safety of washrooms, attendance, punctuality and teaching methods, but it also acknowledged Mr Saggu’s efforts to improve the quality of education and inspire a positive environment.

“Key strengths of the school are the principal’s vision and sense of purpose, the quality of education in the kindergarten, hard-working, confident students, the positive school ethos and attainment, and progress in high-phase sciences,” the report said.

As well as working to improve the overall school environment, Mr Saggu also carefully monitored progress in maths and science classes, with robotics and machine learning to be taught within two years.

Unruly behaviour was clamped down on and staff were instructed to behave in a more positive manner with each other and students, while parents were encouraged to engage with the school via social media.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School was established in 1975. It teaches 2,165 pupils with average tuition fee ranges of between Dh3,000 and Dh5,000 a year.

Unlike other poor performing schools that blame a lack of funds for their failings and ask for permission to raise fees, Mr Saggu has made significant improvements without asking parents for more money.

The school has now asked for permission to raise fees and is awaiting approval, but Mr Saggu said his plans to boost the quality of education and change the school’s culture would go ahead regardless

One of three Pakistani schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School is the only one to break out of the “weak” grade.

“There are two more Pakistani schools in Abu Dhabi under the umbrella of the embassy of Pakistan,” Mr Saggu said. “These are Pakistani Community Welfare School Mussaffah and Pakistan Islamic School Al Ain.

“Unfortunately, both schools have been evaluated as weak in the authority’s report. For more than 300,000 Pakistani expatriates in Abu Dhabi, there are only three community schools, which is a pity.”

Parent Taha Alam, whose children are in Grades 1, 5 and 6 at the school, praised the principal’s efforts.

“It is crucial for a parent to know how the authority is grading the school where their child is going,” Ms Alam said. “The weak school performance means a weak academic future for the student, which is not acceptable for a parent.

“Just over a year ago things were really bad. The quality of teaching was absolutely hopeless and there was administrative chaos.

“It is all about the right leadership. One honest man at the top can change things until the bottom.”

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

Updated: April 4, 2017 04:00 AM

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