SHARJAH // Schools are being spruced up, bus drivers trained and roads paved as preparations for the new academic year enter their final stages.
The Sharjah Education Zone (Sez), Sharjah Transport Corporation and Sharjah Police yesterday said that everything would be ready when pupils returned on September 8.
Key areas for improvement this year are expanding school capacity, improving English language skills, and health and safety.
Surveillance cameras have also been placed on school buses for pupils' safety.
Saeed Al Kaabi, the director of Sez, said maintenance work in most schools was almost complete. "There are a few schools where renovation work is still ongoing but it is expected to be completed in the first week of school."
Mr Al Kaabi said Sez was keen on ensuring that there was no overcrowding and some school projects had been expanded.
The director also said two new model schools were being built - one for boys in Al Qarrayen area and another for girls in the Nova area - which were expected to be completed next year and 2015.
Aisha Al Khajah, the secretary general of Sharjah Education Council, said the emphasis this year was on strengthening the English language curriculum, especially in public schools. "We have a number of English programmes we are undertaking with Sharjah University to help equip English teachers with better skills," she said.
"We also consider students in these programmes. For example, last year we sent 65 students to the UK and other European countries to expose them to other cultures and strengthen their language skills."
The council will this year send 80 students abroad as part of these programmes, with a Dh25,000 budget for each student. Ms Al Khajah said there would also be health campaigns, including ones for early detection of cancer, especially among girls. There are 88 nurses registered in schools.
Road safety is also crucial. Capt Abdul Rahman Khatr, director of communications at Sharjah Police traffic department, said the number of patrols around schools would be increased.
Emirates Transport has also trained all drivers and bus supervisors on child safety.
Adnan Al Zarouni, the director of Emirates Transport for Dubai and Sharjah, said it was having a joint awareness campaign with police on child safety and that surveillance cameras had been installed on buses.
Meanwhile, Sez is also working on expanding adult education centres in the emirate.
Mr Al Kaabi said there was still a shortage of these centres - only about 13 centres accommodating up to 1,300 adults are operating, while the demand has reached up to 2,500 adults.