By Claire Ferris-Lay
EXCLUSIVE: Growing threat of redundancies in UAE force schools to rethink policy on fees.
The global financial crisis is forcing schools and nurseries in the UAE to relax their payment schemes as parents are struggling to make fee payments, schools have said.
Schools are assessing individual fees payments on a “case by case” basis for parents who have been made redundant, they said.
“Some of our parents are unfortunately experiencing financial difficulties. Our schools are very sympathetic to their plight,” said Clive Pierrepont, director of communications and marketing at Taaleem, which runs seven schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
He added individual cases would be dealt with on a case by case basis and urged parents struggling to make payments to contact schools as soon as possible.
“Our advice to parents is to inform their school of any worries as early as possible and keep communications open so that the concerned school can deal with difficulties on a case by case basis and work with parents towards a solution.”
Gems Education, which runs 26 schools across the UAE, said it cared about the families which use its schools and was rolling out a programme that will support those parents who have been affected by the changing economic climate.
"These parents will be considered on a case by case basis by a committee consisting of a head of school, a parent and a member of corporate office," said Sheetal Khullar, communications executive, GEMS Education.
On Thursday, hundreds of parents gathered outside GEMS' Dubai Modern High School to protest at a decision to raise school fees for the next academic year by more than 90 percent.
A number of schools have also noticed a drop off in attendance as parents, unable to afford school fees have decided to return to their home country. “A small percentage of students at Taaleem Schools have withdrawn due to the adverse economic climate,” said Pierrepont.
Thirty pupils from Dubai International Academy in Emirates Hills have left since November as a result of pupils returning to their home country, said Sheethal Govindan. “A lot of people from the Southern Hemisphere choose to move back to Australia or South Africa because the school year starts in December,” she said.
Louise, a single mother from the UK said her son’s school, a Dubai-based British curriculum school, had allowed her to pay a partial fee until she found a new job following her redundancy in December.
“I spoke to the headmaster who said I could pay a partial fee...according to the headmaster a lot of people had come into the school saying they had lost their jobs so the school was trying to be a bit more flexible regarding the school fees,” she said.
The rising cost of schooling has forced many expatriate parents in Dubai to send their children home for schooling, according to a Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry report released in October.
The report said secondary school fees increased by 25.2 percent in 2008, while primary school fees were 18.7 percent more expensive compared to the previous year.
The chamber estimated that school fees now range from 3,000 dirhams ($817) to 58,000 dirhams ($15,700).
Its about time that school managements in the UAE wake up to the ground reality that in unfolding in terms of lost jobs & increasingly difficult times in making ends meet.Whilst over the past few years, on one pretext or the other, they have increased school and bus fees without any change in infrastructure, its time that they make across the board concesssions in fees else they will be left with only empty desks in their class rooms. With the reduction in diesel prices, bus fees which were escalated by 200% last year , should have automatically been reduced.Mr Varkey...are you caring and listening??
School owners have been gouging the population with massive increases over the last few years and at the same time decreasing the quality of their services. Owner of GEMS is a prime example. My kids joined one of their premium schools when the prices were high but manageable at a time when students were 18 to a classroom. They are now 27 to a classroom and the teachers and other staff leave because of poor treatment and working conditions. Attrition has been a problem for a couple of years now. They are struggling to find appropriately qualified staff. Let alone experienced... They used to have a good reputation but not anymore. It is slipping fast. Yet they brag and tell everyone they are doing massively for the community... We are paying the likes of what it costs to send a child through University while they are in primary or middle school. It is totally ridiculous. Value for money is not there. The truth is, the owner of GEMS schools collects massively out of proportion and grossly exaggerated high fees. He blames the high rents etc... He owns the buildings which are paid many time over already and it cost a very small part of his budget to support the operation costs. Just multiply the annual fees by the amount of students and you will be quite impressed by the amount of millions he is collecting... The truth is that this money he is collecting goes directly towards paying for his next projects, not running the existing schools. If he and other owners like him wants to help the community in this financial crisis context, which they have contributed in creating by their greed in the first place, is to give it back to the parents and start charging something more realistic. That would mean going back to what they were charging about 4 years ago... That kind of greed would never be allowed in first world countries. Good luck with your payments in the mean time.