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Roundtable with parents and Dubai schools proves an education
Dubai schools justify the need for the 'infamous' 500 dirham processing fee...
March 26, 2013 6:09 by Muhammad Aldalou
Ambareen Musa certainly isn’t Dubai’s only disgruntled and frustrated parent – but she has recently written a column on Kipp (Kids or cash: what is the real priority for UAE schools?) discussing the nightmare of trying to squeeze your child onto the waiting list of any decent school in the emirate – let alone an actual placement. Suffice to say and much to her shock, ‘why didn’t you plan for this when you were pregnant’ was a typical response she’d received from more than one school.
Today, Kipp attended a roundtable discussion organised by Souqalmal.com (the comparison site Ambareen had founded) to bring the media, parents and school representatives face-to-face to discuss the shortcomings (for a lack of a better word) of private schools in this country and possibly the infrastructure of legislation that governs their practices. It was a heated discussion, to say the least. Heated, but fair.
I’ll be honest with you Kippers. When we left the discussion, we had a severe case of information overload. Interesting information, opinions and concerns no doubt – but an overload nonetheless. Also, towards the end, we had only just begun to scratch the surface of the issue, so there is a lot to relay and much of it was inconclusive, but Kipp will relay some of the more interesting points to you.
For starters, most of the contacted schools and representatives declined to be present (one can guess why) but the ones that agreed to attend were Clive Pierrpont, Director of Communications at taaleem, Saleha Khateeb, Registrar at Horizon School, Jonathan Price, Head Teacher at Jebel Ali Primary School and Diane Thorson, an assistant manager at GEMS Education.
The infamous 500 Dirham fee
Kipp was well aware of how sticky this subject is, but until we attended this morning’s discussion, we had no idea just how sticky. Some strong opinions were voiced – including our own – and the general notion was that not only does this expense seem unnecessary and unaccounted for from the parents’ point of view, but with many schools, it’s also a matter of unethical practice. Parents around the table shared their horror stories of being bulldozed into applying to a number of different schools – all of which asked for the 500 dh processing fee – only to later find their child had no chance of getting in.
It’s true that every school is obliged to pay a 500 dirham fee to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai each time a new student is enrolled, but that still leaves a lot of money unexplained and unjustified.
In a nutshell, most parents end up paying thousands of dirhams in ‘processing fees’ just for the mere hope of their child getting a decent placement. On the other hand, as Jonathan Price, Saleha Khateeb and Clive Pierrpont pointed out, while they do charge that 500 dirham fee, they make sure not to accept ‘registration requests’ unless there’s a valid chance of admission – meaning they don’t capitalise on false hope. And even then, they’re honest with parents about their refund policies.