Hundreds of volunteers came together on Saturday to help low-income families in Dubai prepare for the start of the new school year.
The event was organised by Dubai Cares as part of the group's back-to-school campaign, with volunteers packing 7,000 special school kits ahead of the coming academic year.
Volunteers of various ages and nationalities assembled school backpacks with stationery such as notebooks, pencils, sharpeners, rubbers and pens.
The campaign was held to mark World Humanitarian Day on Saturday.
“Lack of access to basic resources prevents many children from studying or attending school," said Abdulla Ahmed Alshehhi, chief operating officer of Dubai Cares.
"The Back to School edition of our Volunteer Emirates initiative is aimed at helping children from low-income backgrounds, as well as orphans, through school kits containing the most essential items that would be needed as part of their day-to-day learning."
This month, The National spoke to parents who were struggling due to the financial challenges presented by the new school year.
Rising tuition fees, increased rent and the cost-of-living crisis were all playing a part in increasing financial pressure on families ahead of the return to school on August 28.
Private schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah were permitted to raise tuition fees for the 2023-2024 academic year, the first increase in three years.
In Abu Dhabi, schools were allowed to raise fees by up to 3.94 per cent, depending on performance.
Some Dubai private schools were permitted to increase tuition fees by up to 6 per cent, while Sharjah schools were able to raise tuition costs by 5 per cent.
Rights of every child
"Every child should have access to quality education and all the materials and equipment they need to be able to learn and grow," said Nabil Qayed, senior vice president of Corporate Support at DP World GCC, which is sponsoring the scheme.
"When a community unites around such causes, transformative change becomes possible.
"We extend our gratitude to Dubai Cares for their dedication and look forward to continuing our partnership in creating a better world for all."
One of the volunteers taking part in the project explained why it was a cause close to their heart.
"Volunteering is an excellent way to make a difference in someone else’s life," said Yousif Aldarmaki.
"I am thankful to Dubai Cares and DP World for teaming up in this effort to provide underprivileged schoolchildren with back packs containing useful items.
"When the community comes together for a noble cause, we can make great change happen and the success of this initiative proves that and highlights the power of the community in bringing positive change."
How costs are affecting families in the UAE
Parents also spoke out at the start of the month about the financial burden the new school year was presenting.
One mother said her family were moving to a smaller apartment to ease their financial burden.
“We're looking at a few thousand dirhams just for basic items like textbooks, stationery and uniforms. And that's before we even think about technology or extra-curricular activities,” said Qamar Mohammed, 39, who lives in Sharjah and has two children.
“To add more to our financial responsibilities, we have to move out from our apartment because the landlord increased the rent.
“With the choices around us, it seems we might be moving to a one-bedroom apartment to be able to afford school requirements and rising living costs."
The 7,000 school kits created by the volunteers will be distributed across various emirates in the lead-up to the new academic year.