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Thu 13 Aug 2015 12:19 PM

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School principal says 'stuck in the UAE' after death of student

Former head of school ordered to close after death of young girl claims his passport has been confiscated until the school pays a court fine

School principal says 'stuck in the UAE' after death of student
Al Worood Academy Private School. (Photo for illustrative purposes only)

The former principal of a school shutdown after the death of a student reportedly claims he has been barred from leaving the UAE because the owners have not paid a fine.

The death of the three-year-old girl, who died from heat exhaustion when she was accidentally locked inside a school bus, shocked the UAE community last October.

The owner of the company hired to operate the school’s bus services, the bus driver and a supervisor were charged over the incident and received sentences of imprisonment and fines. A school administrator also was given a suspended three-year jail sentence.

The girl’s school, Al Worood Academy, was fined AED150,000 ($40,000) and forced to close at the end of the 2014-15 academic year.

However, the fine is yet to be paid, Abu Dhabi Education Council reportedly told The National.

A negligence charge against the former principal, Roderick Williams, was dropped in May.

But Williams told The National his South African passport was being held by authorities until the school’s fine was paid.

“I can’t even go for an interview for another job because my residency is in my passport,” Williams, who moved to the UAE in 2012 to take up the principal’s job, was quoted as saying.

“The school has been fined and until the school has paid the fine, they will hold on to my passport. It’s as simple as that. Actually, if the school gives them a letter of undertaking guaranteeing they will pay the fine, they provide that to the courts, then they will release my passport. However, failing that I’ll have to wait until the court case is finished and then I can move on with my life.”

The school’s president, Dr Muna Al Ansari reportedly told the daily it had been unable to pay the fine because its accounts were under the control of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, which took over administration of the school following the incident.

“The file is with Adec, all the accounts are with Adec. How can the school pay? They [Adec] must pay. They had our money from day one. Why they didn’t pay?” Dr Al Ansari said. “They have the accounts, why didn’t they pay so this guy, the principal, can go out? This is unfair to let people suffer more.”

A spokesperson for the education council told The National it had not been advised by the court to pay a fine.

“Until now this committee hasn’t receive any final verdict from the court to pay any amount on behalf of the school,” the council reportedly said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Williams said he received his last salary payment in June and now has no source of income and he and his wife would be forced to leave the company housing at the end of the month, when his contract expires.

“Have they now reduced a highly qualified, a highly dignified professional to the status of almost a beggar, because where will I get money to buy food and the necessary stuff?” the 35-year veteran educator was quoted as saying.

“I’m still in the company accommodation until August 31. Thereafter, I’ll probably be out on a limb, so I don’t know what’s going to happen to me personally.”

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