This academic year, a number of new and modern schools opened doors in the UAE, ready or still in the process of preparation to provide one of the most basic rights to children – education. But despite the increasing number of private schools, a lot of kids stayed home on the first day of school. It turns out there are no places left for kids from low-income families in the UAE.
More than 20,000 Pakistani children in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and across the country don’t go to school, at least according to the Pakistani Ambassador, Asif Durrani. In addition, there is perhaps a larger number of Indian children who do not attend school. The reason for this is simple – their parents, the majority of whom are workers with minimum wages, can’t afford to pay the constantly rising school fees. The ambassador explains that there are currently 9,000 children attending the nine Pakistani mission schools in the UAE. At the same time, there is approximately 1.2 million Pakistanis in the country. Is it possible that there would be only 9,000 kids in these families? Very unlikely.
It is true that many expatriates in the UAE leave their families in their home countries and arrive alone to work here. But there are also a huge number of parents who had come with their kids in attempt to provide for them better living conditions and opportunities further in life. However, often, according to Mr. Durrani, they cannot pay the monthly fees, despite the lower rates in Pakistani schools in comparison with others. While many private schools will cost you from AED 30,000 to AED 60,000 per year, some Pakistani schools have monthly fees ranging from AED 185 to AED 300. And there are other private schools which will want you to pay AED 100,000 a year, such as Repton and GEMS schools where according to the newspapers students are denied access to classes and sent back home for late school fee payments.
But tuition fee isn’t the only problem – there are just not enough schools for all these children. In larger emirates new schools are opening each year, but most of them are targeted towards higher social classes and children with wealthier parents, because education is considered by investors as a big business. So, it’s extremely difficult for Pakistani kids to find a school. Girls, in particular, are suffering – when the family has two or more children, but cannot provide education for them all, they decide to send the boys to school. This is how the gender gap in education transfers so easily to the UAE.
Many would say, so what? The indifference is particularly cruel and harsh thing in this case, as there are children involved, irrelevant of their nationality and origin. One of the things that authorities and schools apparently can’t see is that many of these children will in fact remain in the UAE. One day, they will work here, but they will be illiterate, so they will earn less and the quality of their life will probably be worse than their parents’. Meanwhile, the country is in great need of skilled and well-educated workforce.