By Raza Khan
It's easy to type #inthistogether at the end of a media post, and hard to act on it for real, writes Raza Khan
Last week, Al Najah Education announced a 20 percent discount on term 3 fees at the popular Jumeirah schools, Horizon English School and Horizon International School.
These were the first schools in Dubai to announce the move, but more crucially, our schools wanted to act swiftly to offer some tangible financial relief to the community.
As we start a new week, very few schools have followed Al Najah’s lead. Most have stayed silent or come back and said “no” or “prove you’re really hard up” to their customers. In response, parents have been increasingly active and vocal on social media. This made me think: it’s easy to type #inthistogether at the end of a media post. And hard to act on it for real.
But schools and parents are in this together, and both need to find a way to come together in harmony.
Many of the schools here in Dubai are run as businesses, that’s no secret. They offer investors returns, and offer their customers world class facilities and, run by exceptional teachers and school leaders, a sense of community.
But even though we are mostly private businesses, schools have to help. Families are worried for the future. Many are facing very real hardship including job losses and unpaid leave, whilst balancing distance learning with home working.
If we don’t support families now, we will lose the unique community spirit that is so special about Dubai’s schools. So at Al Najah, we are responding quickly to families in crisis – private conversations have been going on in the background for several weeks now. Some families are genuinely unable to pay fees and we speak with each family on a case by case basis.
In this spirit of working together, I hope parents will also support their schools. Distance learning may not be the same as a real classroom, but it’s the best alternative at a time when it is not considered safe to put children back into school. There is a common perception that schools can continue to run on cash reserves, but this simply isn’t true.
In fact, some smaller schools could risk running out of cash and closing down if the parents don’t pay at all, as some are urging.
And if we are to work together to get through this emergency, I would also respectfully urge landlords and banks to consider helping the community by waiving rent payments and instalments for schools during this emergency period.
Schools are an essential community resource, but the buildings are currently empty. And I know that banks are keen to help as we fight this emergency together, as recent initiatives have shown. Relief to schools is one way large institutions can help the community – and it would have a big impact.
I hope we can all take this week to breathe, to think, to reflect on how we might come together as schools and parents. Personally, I will reflect further on what more Al Najah can do for those of our families who are critically affected by the Covid-19 emergency - and on ways we can ease the burden of e learning on parents and teachers and get ready for a longer period of distance learning.
It will take time to beat Covid-19. But we will prevail if we are #inthistogether for real.