Combating coronavirus: Schools in UAE hint at possible fee waivers

Indian schools in the UAE have begun their 2020-21 academic session from this April.

  
Arab students in a classroom. Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image for illustrative purposes only.

Arab students in a classroom. Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Image for illustrative purposes only.

Getty Images/Gallo Images

Schools in the UAE are considering extending fee waivers if the distance learning programme continues into the new academic year which is set to begin for most schools in September.

However, Indian schools in the UAE have begun their 2020-21 academic session from this April.

The distance learning programme that began in March this year was earlier extended until the summer break.

But the Ministry of Education recently stated that the end of e-learning and reopening of schools was "still under review" and would depend on the ongoing efforts to combat Covid-19.

In the light of the pandemic, some schools have indicated a possible reduction of up to 25-30 per cent in their tuition fees, if e-learning continues after the summer break.

Speaking to major school groups across the country, many have hinted at likely waivers while others have a wait-and-see approach.

Schools understand parents' woes

Brendon Fulton, executive principal, Dubai British Schools, said: "The Taaleem Board extended a 20 per cent discount on Term-3 fees to our parents, with 10 per cent being implemented immediately and a further 10 per cent being levied against the Term-1 fees for the next academic year. This means that families returning to Taaleem schools who continue to be financially affected by circumstances associated with Covid-19 will benefit from reduced fees for Term-1 as well."

Industry experts say that many schools have started organising meetings to assess how families and parents have been adversely impacted due to job losses and pay cuts caused by the global health scare.

Indian schools may consider 20-30 per cent fee waiver

Dr Aishah Siddiqua, director of Dubai National school, said: "Many schools have already refunded transport fees and reduced Term-3 fees to ease financial pressure on families. While most parents are pushing for a 50 per cent discount from schools, I know that the buzz is many Indian schools are looking at giving a relief of 25-30 per cent after schools reopen in September, provided distance learning continues. However, we follow American curriculum and we mostly have local students."

A few other head teachers and school administrators of Indian schools echoed similar sentiments without being too committal at the moment.

Zubair Ahmad, head of HR & Administration, Springdales School Dubai, said: "A lot of things are dependent on the support that we get from the government. Civil defence, municipality, electricity bills, licensing fees and other overhead costs need to be paid by schools. If we get some relief, then we will definitely pass it on to the parents. That could possibly range between 20-30 per cent, provided schools see that relief coming for themselves. Additionally, schools also need to survive, so we will take it up on a case-by-case basis with our parents, depending on who has been adversely hit."

Some schools feel it's too early to decide

Meanwhile, Gems Education, which had earlier adopted a "targeted approach" for their relief package, stated that currently their focus is different.

Jodh Singh Dhesi, deputy chief education officer, GEMS Education, said: "Planning for the reopening of schools is currently one of our highest priorities. Our parents are very satisfied with the current remote learning and we will work with them and the regulators to make sure that learning continues."

Reiterating similar thoughts, Deepika Thapar Singh, CEO-principal at Credence High School in Al Khail, said: "It is important that we cross the bridge when we come to it. Speculations, ifs and buts cause stress to all. It is more important to provide quality e-learning and to ensure the wellness of our students and teachers, which is our prime focus and we continue to stay positive."

Understanding parents' conditions, and opining on possible reliefs, many other educational bodies said the education sector will face the challenge with rest of the nation.

Dr Vajahat Hussain, Amity Education Middle East CEO, said: "We are hopeful that things will normalise by September and students come back to campus. We also understand the challenges and changes that parents are experiencing due to Covid-19. We are all in this together. We shall wait for the situation to evolve."

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