Parents of children who are part of the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge’s (Adek) Virtual Charter School are thankful that their financial challenges have not negatively impacted their kids’ education.
A total of 579 students of 15 different nationalities benefitted from the pilot phase of Adek new education option students from lower-income families who were financially impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The programme has been designed to provide quality education free of charge to students forced to leave private schools when their parents could no longer afford fees.
The virtual school programme, launched in October 2020, currently follows the Ministry of Education (MoE) private school curriculum with potential expansion plans for wider curriculum diversity based on identified needs.
Fatima Mawaldi, a 38-year-old single mother of three daughters from Egypt, told Khaleej Times, “Honestly, it is an excellent experience. I assumed it wouldn’t be very well organised, and the girls won’t get the knowledge they need, but I am delighted that they are doing very well in class.”
A widow who lost her husband nearly eight years ago, Fatima has been single-handedly raising her girls by working in an investment company as an administrator. “Private education here is costly. With Covid-19, many of us faced redundancies and cut in our salaries, making matters far more critical for us,” she explained. Fortunately, thanks to the charter school, Fatima’s daughters can continue their education without a hitch.
Fatima’s daughters Mariam (Grade 11), Hajir (Grade 10), and Sarah (Grade 7) are in critical stages of their education. “The feedback from the charter school is excellent. I can see that the teachers are very well organised.”
According to Fatima, the applications help her easily monitor her daughters’ performances. “Parents get feedback on when their kids are not concentrating, when they are not finishing their homework in time, etc. This helps me keep an eye on them. There is an open channel of communication through the school voice app where I can send messages of voice notes to the teachers,” she said.
“The classes are recorded, and if they want to go back and view the videos, they can do that. All this helps my girls become better learners,” she said. Fatima is anxious about the performance of her older daughter Mariam as she is soon to join college. “I have hope now that she may perform well, go to a good university and do well for herself,” she stated.
Syrian national Wafaa Abdulkarim Haj Ali’s two children — Abdulla Mohammed Al Zaabi and Busaina Mohammed Al Zaabi — are Grade 10 and Grade 7 students. “Last year when Covid-19 hit, my husband’s employer informed him that he would not be paid for the next three months. They also asked him to start looking out for other jobs,” said Wafaa.
When the family reached a point where they could not afford to pay school fees any longer, Wafaa and her husband heard about the virtual charter school programme and immediately enrolled both their kids on the programme. They have been studying in the charter school since October last year. “My husband is still on the lookout for a job. He hasn’t found one yet,” she stated.
Residents of the UAE since 2012, Wafaa and her family live in Abu Dhabi. “The programme has been highly beneficial for my kids, to be honest. I noticed that they are more organised, participated actively in class, and the teachers are good too,” she said.
Wafaa also said that her kids were learning with great interest. “It has been a difficult year. Fortunately, our financial situation did not impact my children and their studies. Their education continues without any hitches,” she said.
The school is catering to students from grades 5 to11 and supplying loaned digital devices on a complimentary basis. Students are permitted transfers to alternative private schools by Adek rules. However, parents financially affected by Covid-19 who have enrolled their children in the Virtual Charter School must pledge to pay all outstanding amounts to their children’s previous private school and settle fee arrears before re-enrolling children in the private school system.
“The Virtual Charter School is a not-for-profit public-private partnership model that offers alternative education delivery, which redresses learning loss in a pandemic. The programme provides an invaluable bridge for students to continue their education,” said Sara Musallam, Adek’s chairman said in an earlier interview.
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