New Indian school to open in Abu Dhabi

The capital's desperate shortage of places at Indian schools is set to be considerably eased next month with the opening of a new school in Musaffah.

ABU DHABI // The capital's desperate shortage of places at Indian schools is set to be considerably eased next month with the opening of a new school in Musaffah. The Private International English School will open for admissions on Sunday for up to 1,000 children, as part of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) school network, which is India's largest.

The classes will start for children in kindergarten and grades one to four on September 19. The opening of the new school follows an appeal in March by the Indian Embassy, which asked the Abu Dhabi government to intervene after thousands of children were left without places. Abu Dhabi's Our Own English High School said then that it had more than 3,500 children on its waiting list for just 180 available places.

Small villa schools were deluged as well. The Little Flower Private School had a waiting list of more than 600. Some desperate parents feared they would have to send their children back to India to continue their schooling. Others faced moving to Dubai or paying for a home tutor. NK Ramachandran, the chairman of the new school as well as one in Kuwait, said they planned to keep class sizes small. "We are aiming to have 15 students in each classroom, with the maximum being 25 students in a class," he said.

"And even if on September 19 we open with just 10 students, we will still open. The students will come." Eventually, two further buildings will house 150 classrooms and 3,600 additional pupils. Entry for a further four year groups will begin next year, and then the age range will rise a year at a time until classes are operating for all 12 grades. "We aim to reach a full capacity of 4,500 students," said Mr Ramachandran. The school is hiring teachers, with applicants from the region, the UAE and India.

More BVB schools in Sharjah and Dubai are planned, as well as others in Bahrain and Doha. The news provided relief for parents. Reji Kumar's four-year-old son has been attending a play centre and nursery for the past four months in lieu of a proper kindergarten in an accredited school. "I will be one of the first ones to visit that new school and enquire about admission," he said. He said Indian parents place a lot of importance on sending their children to schools that teach the Indian curriculum, and whose exams are administered by New Delhi's Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). "It is really going to be considered a very wonderful thing by so many people," said Mr Kumar, an engineer, who has lived in Abu Dhabi for 18 years. George Mathew, the principal of Our Own English High School, said the demand for places was stronger this year than previously. "Abu Dhabi is fast expanding and there is room for quite a few Indian curriculum schools. This phenomenon is only going to grow," he said. Aneze bin Salim, who found school places in the capital for his 14-year-old son and six-year-old daughter at the "very last minute", said the new school would be a relief for many parents. "Some parents were forced to put their children in schools that do not teach the Indian curriculum," he said. "These parents will jump at the chance to move their children to schools that have the CBSE system in place." Mavadevan Babu, a banker who moved to Abu Dhabi 15 years ago, said BVB schools were highly regarded among parents. "There are no schools with a good Indian curriculum in Musaffah," he said. "This is a well-known school that we, as parents, are very excited about." Mr Babu, who lives in Musaffah, wants to move his two children to the school from their old one in central Abu Dhabi. The basic fees are Dh8,000 a year for kindergarten pupils, and Dh10,000 a year for primary school. Parents will pay between Dh350 and Dh450 a month for transportation, up to Dh700 a year for books and up to Dh600 for uniforms. The Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) said last month that it would continue to implement short- and long-term solutions to the shortage. As well as allowing bigger classes, Adec intends to phase out villa schools more slowly than planned, and let Indian schools use old government school buildings.