Fears of Indian exodus from schools disproved by survey

Talk of an exodus of Indian children from UAE schools during the holiday has proved unfounded, according to the Indian Consulate General.

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Dubai // Talk of an exodus of Indian children from UAE schools during the holiday has proved unfounded, according to a survey by the Indian Consulate General. In fact, it seems that fewer pupils than last year have gone back despite fears that a large number of Indian families had decided to send their children home because of the economic downturn.

The survey found that 5,038 certificates for transfer of pupils back to India were issued by Indian schools in the UAE during the 2008-09 academic year, compared with 5,107 in 2007-08. The findings were part of a report presented by Venu Rajamony, the Consul General of India, during a visit to his native country last week. The report, entitled The Impact of Financial Crises on Indian Migrant Workers in the UAE, was presented at the Centre for Development Studies in Kerala and released to media in the UAE last night. Mr Rajamony was unavailable for comment.

"There is no sign of sudden exodus but there are slow flows back," the report said. "The outflows will continue but at a reduced pace. The government of India is closely monitoring the situation." The report, which was based on statistics gathered from individual schools, said the number of transfer certificates issued increased at some institutions and fell at others. It concluded that rising school fees were a more important factor than the downturn in whether children were being sent back to India.

This month, fears were expressed in the Indian parliament regarding the number of Indians losing jobs in the UAE. Vayalar Ravi, the minister of overseas Indian affairs, told the parliament that 50,000 to 150,000 Indians were estimated to have returned from the UAE. There was concern that many families would be forced to move back to India and uproot their children from schools in the UAE. The report said anecdotal accounts suggested that many Indians were returning home and many had been sent on leave.

According to the report, there are 1.5 million Indians living in the UAE, of whom 1.2m are in Dubai. There was a steep drop in the number of approvals by the consulate general for group recruitment for major projects during January and February and this had remained flat in recent months. However, the report said the UAE continued to be the single most important destination for Indians, followed by Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Malaysia and Bahrain.

None of the report's authors was available for comment last night. The National reported this month that, despite the impact of the downturn on the construction industry, Indian workers are still travelling to the Gulf in droves. Officials at the overseas ministry said that although fewer were coming to work for building companies, other sectors in the economy were attracting enough people to make up the difference.