Western region school shut down over ‘extreme safety hazards’

Education authorities have shut down an Indian-curriculum school in the Western Region because of the poor conditions of the building.

ABU DHABI // Education authorities have shut down an Indian-curriculum school in the Western Region because of the poor conditions of the building.

Parents of 502 students attending the Western Model Private School, in Ghayathi, were notified by the Abu Dhabi Education Council on Sunday that the school was closing this week because of “extreme safety hazard reasons”.

“The school closed because the physical condition of the building is quite risky and we informed the operator one year ago to do improvements and unfortunately, he was not co-operating, so we had to close it,” said Hamad Al Dhaheri, executive director at Abu Dhabi Education Council’s Private Schools and Quality Assurance department.

“We informed the parents that the students would be allocated to different schools.”

The Western Model Private School was founded in 1996 on the site of a former Government school building, that is now about 30 years old.

It received the lowest grade from inspectors in 2013 and made a minor improvement in 2014, when it was judged to be “in need of significant improvement.”

Inspectors noted they observed corporal punishment in the school in 2013. When they returned in 2014, they reported that “a few students indicate that some teachers still use corporal punishment although the principal says it is forbidden and no incidents were seen during the inspection.”

The school’s building and premises were noted to be “very unsatisfactory,” in the 2014 report. In February, Adec received a technical report of the building that said “the structural condition of the school remains ‘very poor,’ the structural deteriorations of the school is ‘very severe’ and the safety hazard of the school is ‘extreme.’”

“Based on the technical report issued about the school, the concrete compressive, quality and resistivity were rated very poor,” according to Adec. “The overall structural condition of the building is rated very poor, and the corrosion risk is rated hazardous. The structural elements (i.e. columns and beams) strength of the school is extremely below standard.”

The education regulator said it didn’t close the school then because the report said the school could safely remain open for one more year, Adec said. On July 20, Adec said it notified parents that the school would be closed for the 2016-2017 academic year, which for the CBSE-curriculum school begins in April.

Emiratis make up about 17 per cent of the student population at the school, according to the last inspection report. Nearly 50 per cent of the students are Arabs and the rest are Asians. Adec said it will move the 216 Arab and Emirati students to six nearby Government schools and the 282 Asian students are being accommodated by two area private schools.

Dr Mugheer Al Khaili, acting director general of Adec, said any school that did not meet the education regulator’s standards will face potential closure.

He said Adec would close any school with structural problems or with asbestos on site.

“[With] all the health and safety issues, it has been given the priority and we have done that,” said Dr Al Khaili.

Last year, Adec completed the closure of 72 villa schools that were operating out of buildings that were not fit for education purposes. Its Future Schools Project, which was started in 2008, aims to build 100 schools to replace older ones by 2020.

“We will never put a child in danger,” said Dr Al Khaili. “That is our responsibility, to protect them and this is what we are working on.”