Students back to classes

DUBAI/ABU DHABI — As Asian school students returned to the schools in the emirates after a long summer vacation yesterday, the babble of excited voices, giggles of joy, groans of boredom and cries of children summed up the mood of the new academic year.

By Meraj Rizvi,n. Srinivasan Andhaseeb Haider

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Published: Sun 28 Aug 2005, 10:19 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 3:29 PM

Many were excited to be re-united with their friends and teachers, while others sported frowns and wore a morose look unhappy to be back to the grind.

Several schools adopted novel gestures to welcome back their students and make them comfortable after the long break. The Indian High School (IHS) Dubai welcomed its staff and students back with a 'Back to School Refreshment Snack' pack each.

“IHS which has over 8,800 students and over 725 teaching and support staff introduced the welcome snack packets this year to make students feel good and happy on their first day,” said Ashok Kumar, IHS principal.

Bright, eager and refreshed faces were seen all around as 95 per cent of students and 98 per cent of staff reported on the first day of the second term at IHS. Apart from the beginners who looked nervous stepping into school for the first time and cried with many clinging on their parents in the fear of being left alone, older students were seen enthusiastically sharing their experiences with one another. “I was waiting to meet my friend and give her some souvenirs collected during my trip to the UK during this vacation,” said Divya a student of IHS who was happy to be reunited with her friends and teachers.

“Although I had fun during the summer break, I looked forward to returning to school since I have a lot of friends,” said Shyamla of Our Own English High School, Sharjah. “But, the one thing I dislike about school is waking up early and going to bed early,” she said, pointing out that during the holidays “we are free to keep late nights and wake up late in the morning, but this luxury gets curbed during school days.”

“I missed my class teacher and her friendly smile each morning as well as my friends,” told another student who stayed in Dubai during the summer. “My family decided to stay home and not take a vacation this year which was very boring since most of my friends and neighbours were away. But, with school having re-opened I met them all,” he added.

Apart from the students, teachers also looked relaxed and rested in most schools and happy to receive their students. They were seen greeting each other.

Around 100,000 students from 42 CBSE affiliated schools in India, and a dozen schools each affiliated to the Kerala State board and Pakistani Federal Board in Pakistan returned to school yesterday after a long summer break.

The reopening of schools is also a time when parents have to dig into their purses to pay the fees after shelling out money to meet the soaring costs of accommodation and the rise in prices of essential commodities.

Principals of leading schools in the capital, however, affirmed that there has been no hike in the tuition fee in their institutions. And similar was the case in respect of the charges levied for transportation, school uniform and stationery, they said.

"Not in my school," said George Mathew, Principal of Our Own English High School, that will open to a full strength of 1,300 students.

"In fact, we have added state-of-the art facilities to enhance the IT factor in our computer courses," he said. Students can now help themselves to overhead digital computer projectors, as the school has drafted the services through the Global Education Management Services, in addition to recruiting qualified staff to handle the classes.

As the Group runs five schools in various emirates, bulk orders placed for uniforms and stationery have served to bring down the costs that remain at a moderate level, Mathew said.

The Abu Dhabi Indian School (ADIS) will open its doors to the swelling strength of a further 170 students that will raise the total number on its rolls to 4,020. The school has obtained the permission from the authorities to effect a nominal rise in the fees, said Principal of ADIS, V.K. Kaul. The last increase was made nine years ago, and the latest measure is to meet the costs incurred for carrying out various developmental projects at the school, he said. "This includes construction of a new block for boys at a cost of Dh9 million. The ground plus two floor structure will provide for an additional 46 rooms besides five labs. Further, the cost of processing visas has gone up, as are the charges for various routine services," he said.

Some schools with less modest student strengths have resorted to marginal hike in fee, according to the heads of these institutions.

"It is not as if we can arbitrarily fix the fee," said the principal of one such school who did not want to be named. The schools need to obtain permission from the Ministry of Education for any upward revision in fees, that can be done once in three years. They have other obligations to meet such as conforming to incremental scales of salaries for teachers and installing additional facilities to cater to the growing prospectus of study, and hiring new staff," he said.

Some schools have moved to new premises and expanded their sections to the addition of new classroom facilities, particularly for the computer labs. These call for ploughing in investments and students have to bear the burden in the interests of furthering the quality of education that they receive, he said.

Since the textbooks have slipped out of the reach of most parents and as with each passing year the prices are not stabilising, many parents are now preferring to buy second-hand books. Khaleej Times during the last three weeks has published more than 60 such advertisements.

Susan Joseph, mother of two school going children said that text books in India are one third the price, charged by a local school where her children study.

Mrs Shahid, who put an advertisement in Khaleej Times said that in fact she is donating books of A-level. She said: "I cannot sell them, it would be great insult to the books." But, since prices of books are abnormally high and many parents cannot afford it these days, that's why she said: "I want to donate them to a deserving student. My husband brought books from Pakistan, I don't know what price he paid for them."

Some schools located in villas, are in financial straits as they had to pay their rents that have increased by 20-30 per cent. But when many sought permission from the Educational Zone seeking to revise the fees, and the response they got from them was in big "No".

"We applied to the Educational Zone, Abu Dhabi recently that owning to increase in the cost of rent, we want to raise the fees nominally to recover the cost, but they denied us permission to do so, until we move to newly built school building", said a principal of school that offers Arabic curriculum.

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