Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

CORONAVIRUS

UAE parents urge schools to reduce tuition fees as they suffer pay cuts

Mums and dads call on school operators to consider the effect of the pandemic on their pockets

 Paula Bellamy is asking school operators to consider reducing fees for the rest of the school year.  Reem Mohammed / The National
 Paula Bellamy is asking school operators to consider reducing fees for the rest of the school year.  Reem Mohammed / The National

Parents who have had their incomes slashed because of the coronavirus outbreak are urging schools to reduce tuition fees now that distance learning has been extended until the end of the academic year.

They say their children do not have access to school facilities or the same contact time with teachers and the standard of e-learning differs to on-campus classes.

Some parents say they will struggle to pay fees after having their salaries reduced due to the global economic downturn caused by the virus.

Paula Bellamy, a British mum in Dubai, said her business has taken a hit since the outbreak, while her husband, who works as an aircraft engineer for Emirates, has had his pay halved.

Right now there is so much uncertainty about everything and we don’t know how long this situation will last. We need to save up what we can

Hina Saleem

She is satisfied with her daughter’s teachers, but is asking school operators to consider how Covid-19 has affected peoples’ pockets.

“I certainly don’t want to knock the teachers or the school, but I think school operators need to consider a lot of the parents are on a lot less money than they were before,” said Ms Bellamy.

“There were certainly fees increases each year in the past five to six years. They need to go back and take all that way to get to a realistic level that people can afford.

“Things aren’t the same any more.”

Sara Furqan, an Abu Dhabi resident from Pakistan, said her family needs to “prepare for the worst” as their household could be losing an income next month.

She and her husband pay Dh20,000 for their seven-year-old son’s school fees.

“There is a possibility that my husband’s company will ask some of their employees to go on unpaid leave. We have to be prepared and schools should, at least, give us flexibility to pay the fees,” she said.

“For the younger kids, distance learning is not easy. We, the parents, have to monitor them and make sure they are following the teacher’s instructions.

“With the current situation, school authorities really need to think about a new fees structure.”

A Indian woman, 39, who lives in Dubai with her husband said he might have his pay cut by 40 per cent next month.

They still owe Dh25,000 for their daughter’s third term of school and Dh4,000 per month for their son.

“We should get at least a 40 per cent waiver on school fees,” she said.

"If I have to pay [the full] amount I may be forced to consider homeschooling."

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous, said she expected more from the distance learning programme and worries her children are not being taught new topics.

"This is definitely not what we paid for. A few hiccups were expected but I expected this would settle gradually,” she said.

“My children are just revising topics they have already finished. For subjects like mathematics, you need the teacher there so you can ask those questions.

"Schools need to improve their distance learning because our children are not using the school’s facilities such as computer labs and sports facilities.”

Hina Saleem said that the school tuition fees does not match the quality of online education her children are receiving. Courtesy: Hina Saleem 
Hina Saleem said school tuition fees does not match the quality of the online education her children are receiving. Courtesy: Hina Saleem

Hina Saleem, a Pakistani woman who lives in Dubai, pays Dh19,000 total in school fees for her two young children.

“Our children aren’t receiving the same benefits they would at school – for example access to school labs, interacting with different teachers and peers and developing their social skills.

“Right now there is so much uncertainty about everything and we don’t know how long this situation will last. We need to save up what we can.”

Other parents said they were happy to pay the full fee to help keep their children’s schools afloat.

Jenie Blanksby, from the UK, said she wanted to keep supporting the school her 17-year-old child attends because it is a non-profit.

"I have found distance learning to be very good and my daughter is being set a lot of work,” she said.

“I feel teachers have put in more work than they would have at school. I feel it's fair that we pay the fees as buildings have to be maintained, schools would have to pay rent and staff.

“If people don’t pay fees it will impact the school. If you don’t pay fees then it would put the school in a worse position for next year.

"That is very real risk that teachers won't be there if people don’t pay fees."

Updated: March 31, 2020 08:29 PM

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