|02 April, 2020

UAE schools cut fees, freeze payments as coronavirus hits families' finances

Several education providers step up to cushion financial impact of pandemic

Students play during their lunch break on the last week of the school term, in Wellington International School in Dubai. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Students play during their lunch break on the last week of the school term, in Wellington International School in Dubai. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Jumanah El-Heloueh

Since the coronavirus outbreak started to worsen, Delorah Madan, a teacher in Bur Dubai, has seen a growing number of students pulling out of their classes.

“One student just told me that she has to stop going to school because her father lost his job. They can’t afford to pay the tuition [fees] anymore,” the Dubai expat, who gives piano lessons to kids during their spare time, says.

Another student confided she might have to cut the frequency of lessons because her parent has just closed down their family business in Dubai. Deborah expects to see more and more cases like this over the coming weeks, as the financial fallout of the coronavirus deepens.

However, Delorah’s students, as well as the rest of the residents in the UAE who spend tens of thousands of dirhams on education expenses every year, could get some financial relief in the midst of hardships caused by the pandemic.

Several educational institutions in the UAE have confirmed they have come up with relief schemes to help parents impacted by the crisis, including rate cuts, and fee freezes and waivers.

Schools in the country have been shut to stem the spread of the deadly virus, sending over a million students online to continue their classes. However, as the global crisis continues to ravage businesses around the world and resulted in unprecedented job losses and salary cuts, some parents have been struggling to meet living expenses.

Relief efforts

GEMS Education informed its customers on Wednesday that they will defer the school fees and offer payment plans or discounts for families who have lost their jobs, had salary cuts or been placed on unpaid leave.

The school will also waive all registration, assessment and administration fees for those who are finding it difficult to meet school expenses “as a direct result” of the global pandemic, GEMS said in a letter to parents at Jumeirah College.

Parents of students at Dubai International Academy, Collegiate American School, Raffles International School and Raffles World Academy will also benefit from similar relief packages, according to Innoventures Education, which manages the schools in Dubai.

The company said it is offering personalised payment plans and  deferment of fees for families who have been unemployed, had salary cuts or sent home without pay. The offer will also cover self-employed professionals or business owners who may be struggling to pay the fees.

“This is in addition to interest-free installment plans for all school fee payments made by credit card,” the company said, adding that parents will also get a refund for bus transport fees.

“All bus transport and cafeteria providers will offer a roll-over of credit to the next academic year or offer refunds for payments made from April to June 2020,” Innoventures said.

At the Horizon English School and Horizon International School, all based in Jumeirah,  parents will enjoy a 20 percent reduction in school fees. The schools’ operator, Al Najah Education, said the relief plan will apply to all year groups for term three of the 2019-2020 academic year.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) had earlier said that the online education system for schools will be extended until the end of the current academic year, ending June 2020.

The authority also said that schools in Dubai must refund parents the bus fees for Term 3.

Raza Khan, CE of Al Najah Education, said that with the discount, they are doing their part to help families through the hard times that lie ahead. He added that their schools will also make changes to the e-learning system to help parents cope with a longer distance learning period.

“This is a marathon now, not a sprint. We will make sure all the students catch up on lost learning when schools reopen, with extended classes and blended learning,” Khan said.

Precautionary measures

The UAE has implemented a series of precautionary measures to flatten the curve of coronavirus infections, including the shutdown of all passenger flight routes, shopping malls, public venues and non-essential commercial establishments. 

The containment measures have effectively brought almost all economic activities to a halt, and this has financially impacted business owners, from small-scale enterprises to large corporations.

Only recently, Emirates, Etihad Airways and flydubai announced employee salary cuts of up to 50 percent. Some companies have also laid off their staff or sent their workers on an unpaid leave.

The rapidly spreading virus has now infected more than 900,000 people. On Thursday, the UAE confirmed 150 new cases, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 814.

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)



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© ZAWYA 2020

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