This is ‘my big’ new school

Abdul Rahman from Somalia, a Grade 2 student was brimming with excitement.

By Olivia Olarte (

Published: Tue 17 Aug 2010, 12:38 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:07 AM

He and two other friends, who attended the now closed Cultural Private School in Mussafah, had been waiting patiently to get enrolled into their new school, the Universal Future Education Private Academy (UFEPA) in the East of Baniyas (previously Saad bin Obaidah School).

Eyes wide with delight, Abdul nodded his head in approval. “This is better, I like it here. My old school was very small and I couldn’t move,” said Abdul.

“This school is nice, it has a bigger play area,” agreed Mohammed Ali, another Somalian who will be in Grade 3 this coming academic year.

Abdul and Mohammed are just two of the students who have registered to attend the new school in Baniyas after their previous school run from villas were shut down.

Kifah, a Yemeni national who enrolled her four younger brothers at the new Arabic-language school also expressed her assent, “This is a big school and the students will be able to move freely here. And with all the facilities, the level of education will definitely be better.”

UFEPA is one of the two schools that has come up on the large government purpose-built facilities allocated by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) to accommodate the 2,291 displaced students following the closure of the six villa-run schools on June 30. The schools were closed for breaching health and safety standards.

The academy, which will follow the Ministry of Education curriculum, has a capacity to accept some 1,100 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 with separate sections for boys and girls from Grade 4 and above. For this school year, it will offer classes for up to Grade 9. Higher levels will be offered in succeeding years.

In Muroor meanwhile, enrolment at the Abu Dhabi Philippine Academy (ADPA) is manned by volunteer staff from the Pioneers International Private School. Since enrolment started on August 4, more than 600 students have been entered into its rolls, 80 percent of whom are former Pioneers students. The rest of the students are from two other Philippine schools operating out of a villa.

ADPA can accommodate up to 1,300 students, but for the 2010/2011 academic year, it will enrol students only for Kindergarten to Grade 10 with an option to open up classes for grades 11 and 12 if required.

The new academy offers American curriculum with supplementary Philippine education subjects such as the Filipino language; social studies/Philippine history; home economics and livelihood education (HELE); technology and home economics (THE); and music, arts and physical education in the Philippine setting, to be accredited by the Philippine Department of Education.

Both schools are currently undergoing refurbishments and will be ready in time to accept students on September 13. When fully refurbished, each school will have its own library, auditorium, gymnasium, sports facilities, science, chemistry, physics and computer laboratories; an air-conditioned walkway and covered play area for the primary at Baniyas and a HELE/THE lab at Muroor.

“There is so much open space for the children to play. The schools are so far away from traffic, so it will be safe for the kids,” stated Kasey Conrad, education consultant and policy specialist at UFE — a school management and consulting firm in Abu Dhabi which won the bid to operate the low-cost schools.

The two academies will also have their own clinics with a licensed registered nurse, an isolation room, two examination beds and bathroom and will be affiliated with the nearest hospital.

“In Baniyas, it will be the Mafraq Hospital but for the Philippine Academy, we have yet to speak with the hospitals close by ... it’s all in the process,” Conrad noted.

According to Conrad, the new UFE schools will follow ADEC’s 1.8 sqm per child requirement, and will have a 25:1 student/teacher ratio per class with a maximum of 30 students.

The number of teachers in each school will depend on the number of students, but based on the pre-registered students ADPA plans to have more than 30 while UFEPA plans over 40.

However, to date, only 100 students have enrolled at UFEPA despite calls made to parents of the 650 students who had pre-registered.

Noting the school’s location, the Vice Principal, Khalil Al Saifi, said he would arrange transportation for parents to conclude their children’s registration.

But “we will not reserve seats and wait for them to show up. We will start accepting new enrollments from nearby areas. We have already advertised, and students who want to enrol in this school are welcome to come,” said Amna Al Shamsi, the Emirati principal of UFEPA.

Shirley Oblea, a mother of a student from the PISCO Private School, is mulling transferring her daughter to the new Philippine academy but said she has yet to encourage her daughter, who is not inclined to leave her friends behind.

“It will be good for her to learn how to use a proper library, so she won’t have difficulty when she goes back to the Philippines to pursue her higher education,” she said.

In addition to Filipino students, the ADPA accepts English-speaking nationals and already has into its rolls students from Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Russia.

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