Disabled pupils forced to stay home as parents cannot afford fees

Ten special needs students have had to be pulled out of classes at the Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Dubai because their families were unable to pay fees.
Demand for the services of Dubai’s Al Noor special needs centre has increased over the years, but most requests come from parents who cannot afford the fees. While the centre subsidises 40 per cent of costs, many pupils have had to stop attending. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Demand for the services of Dubai’s Al Noor special needs centre has increased over the years, but most requests come from parents who cannot afford the fees. While the centre subsidises 40 per cent of costs, many pupils have had to stop attending. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

DUBAI // The mornings are filled with a familiar heartbreak for Apoorva. Every day, she watches as her brother sets off for school while she stays at home, often in floods of tears.

The 14-year-old, who is disabled, has not been able to attend classes since both her parents lost their jobs and could no longer afford to pay her school fees. The daily disappointment of being left at home and being away from her friends and routine is beginning to take its toll on the teenager and her family.

Apoorva is one of 10 special needs students whose families have had to pull them out of classes at the Al Noor Training Centre for Persons with Disabilities in Dubai because they were unable to pay fees.

All of the youngsters, one girl and nine boys aged 5 to 15, come from low-income families and have a range of conditions, including autism and Down syndrome. Without daily care and support, their families fear they will have no other choice but to spend each day indoors.

“Apoorva is not happy,” said her father, Joseph, who has been out of work for a year.

“We fear she is forgetting what she has learnt so far.”

The centre in Barsha teaches 250 children from 35 nationalities. Almost all are expatriates.

Each child’s education costs between Dh65,000 and Dh75,000 a year with the centre, which subsidises 40 per cent to help low-income parents.

But finding the remaining amount, which comes to Dh45,000 a year, is proving difficult for the 10 families struggling to make ends meet.

“The current year has been the most challenging for us, as many parents have not been able to pay fees because of job losses and other financial constraints,” said the centre’s director, Isphana Al Khatib.

Ms Al Khatib said staff were trying their best to help but the centre relied on money from fees to provide quality training and care to all its pupils.

“The centre is doing its best to continue the education and training of these children. If we are not able to get the financial support, then it will be very painful for us to say goodbye to them,” she said.

The parents have been given two more weeks to raise the funds. After that, the centre will be forced to halt admissions for the 10 pupils.

Demand for Al Noor’s services has increased over the years, said Ms Al Khatib, who has run Al Noor for more than 30 years.

“We receive lots of ­admission requests every day compared with previous years and most of them are from those who cannot afford the cost,” she said, adding that about 25 per cent of the centre’s students received financial support.

Dilip’s eight-year-old son has been waiting patiently for school to start so he can rejoin his friends.

Despite classes having already begun at Al Noor, the Indian does not know when his child, who suffers from cerebral palsy, will be able to go back.

“Despite not earning enough, I was doing my best to make sure that apart from my other family expenses, my son’s ­education and training continued,” said the 44-year-old Indian, who lost his job two months ago.

“I feel so helpless.”

Dilip, who has lived in Dubai for more than 10 years, said parents had few alternatives.

“Where should we take our children who need special care? My son is not responsible for my job loss but he suffering the most.”

akhaishgi@thenational.ae

Published: September 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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