Shipping delays and rising costs pose challenges to new schools in the Emirates

Principals have had to find solutions to a variety of issues before opening last month

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The soaring cost of resources and delivery delays were among the challenges new schools in the Emirates faced before welcoming pupils last month.

Principals have spoken about what it took to open new schools amid rising inflation.

Tracy Moxley, principal at Citizens School in Dubai, said that despite opening its doors last Monday, the school was still waiting for some resources to arrive from abroad.

Obviously, shipping delays have meant that [some] books have not arrived on time. But thankfully they will be here in the next few days and [others have already] started to arrive
Tracy Moxley, principal at Citizens School

“The school has a large, extensive library, so ensuring that we had all the books here on time has been a challenge,” she said.

"Obviously, shipping delays have meant that [some] books have not arrived on time. But thankfully they will be here in the next few days and [others have] started to arrive.

“We are well enough resourced to be able to start our curriculum from day one and we are happily buying locally and supplementing our supplies with local suppliers, so it's not been too bad.”

Amin El Nezami, who owns Victoria English School in Sharjah, said escalating prices proved a challenge this year.

In June, he approved a large order of educational books from the UK. The price of the shipment was about Dh1.8 million ($490,130) — twice what it cost several years ago.

Tracy Moxley, principal at Citizens School, says she is still waiting for some resources to be delivered. Photo: Citizens School

Other schools faced issues with recruitment, last-minute changes to construction plans and licensing delays.

Charis Wightman, head of Durham School Dubai, said there was a delay in receiving its licences, which meant it could not start pupil enrolment until May.

The school currently has about 80 pupils, with enrolments continuing this month.

"We didn't have the authority to recruit pupils until May. The building was looking fantastic and we were ready to go but we couldn't open our doors and start taking admissions," Ms Wightman said.

“For us, it was that we were delayed in getting those [licences] and having the authority to start to recruiting.

“It was very much about working extremely hard to get the school open on time."

She said many pupils joined from overseas this year and the school needed to help them catch up on lost learning owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Supply chain issues

Eoin Bolger, managing director of Gulf Education, helped to establish the Italian International School in Abu Dhabi and said it faced supply chain problems before opening last month.

“Supply chain was obviously an issue where it wasn't as easy to get certain types of furniture or resources into the school, because maybe they were coming from certain parts of the world where shipping costs and supply chain made it a little bit more difficult," he said.

"Of course prices have gone up. We are in a very lucky position where the owner of the school did not want to compromise on the value or the quality of resources, furniture, supplies, books, even though there was an increase in price.

"It wasn't ideal, but it's just the situation that we're in right now and we have to get on with it.

“Costs are maybe 10 per cent more expensive than they were a year and a half or two years ago.”

He said the pandemic made it difficult to recruit teachers from overseas because they were concerned about travelling and Covid-19 restrictions.

"I think again, mid-pandemic, it was that some parents were losing jobs and having to relocate, so that was an issue for schools," he said.

“But, thankfully, I think everything is starting to pick up again.”

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Updated: September 07, 2022, 11:49 AM