x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Row heats up over school AC units

Ministry of Education says maintenance company vandalised school AC systems so they could charge more.

DUBAI // The principals of public schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates should have reported faults with their air conditioning sooner, according to the Ministry of Education.

But parents, teachers and pupils said that they had complained about the increasingly unbearable conditions in classrooms for some time.

Khawla al Naqbi, the principal of Umm Roman Bint Amer School in Sharjah, said the situation had become "dangerous".

"The ministry is late in handling this problem. They should have been acting more quickly," said Mrs al Naqbi. "In one classroom, for example, none of the ACs are working and I have parents, teachers and pupils complaining because it is so hot."

Mrs al Naqbi said that some parents had threatened to take their children out of the school due to health concerns.

"They get sick and sometimes suffer nose bleeds. It is so sad and such a difficult position for a principal to be put in because if I had the budget, we could have fixed the problem ourselves."

Ali Mihad al Suwaidi, the director general of the Ministry of Education, said schools needed to file complaints about faulty AC units as soon as the need arose.

"The education zones file complaints about the faulty air conditioners very late in the year. They often come to us in May and expect us to get everything done quickly, which is not possible. We are ready to give them the service, but they wait till the last moment and it gets difficult," he said. "We have advised them to regularly service the air conditioners so that they do not break down all together."

The ministry also confirmed yesterday that it had ended a five-year contract with an unnamed company hired to supply and maintain AC units in public schools.

Mr al Suwaidi denied claims the ministry had filed a lawsuit against the contractor for fraudulent practices.

However, he confirmed that the ministry was looking to employ several contractors to oversee AC reliability in public schools.

"Mr al Suwaidi said: "Now we are looking for new service providers and this time will outsource the job to multiple companies."

Mr al Suwaidi said the ministry planned to replace all 7,000 window AC units with split AC units by 2013. Split units can be attached anywhere on a wall instead of a window, and are quieter and more efficient because of larger fans.

Hassan Abdullah Ghazlan, the principal of Tumb Secondary School in Ras al Khaimah, said that despite promises of upgrades, they were still stuck with the old AC system.

"The ministry says it has made plans to install the new units but we have seen nothing so far. Hopefully we will get them soon because it is very hot," said Mr Ghazlan. "We only have very few units and the level of air conditioning is a little cool but low quality. They are so noisy also and the pupils say it is difficult to concentrate."

melshoush@thenational.ae

aahmed@thenational.ae