Dubai - Trouble began after the sponsor's son tried to take over the administration.
A Dubai-based school is embroiled in a dispute between its Emirati sponsor and Indian investor, which could affect students. It had been smooth sailing for the British curriculum Oxford School for the past 30 years until an administrative wrangle affected its operations.
According to the investor, trouble began after the sponsor's son tried to take over the administration. He also alleged that the administrative and managerial staff were denied entry into the school.
The investor has filed two cases against the sponsor at a Dubai court, which appointed an expert to study the case and submit a report. He has also sought help from the Indian Consulate in Dubai.
Advocate Shamsudeen Karunagappally, senior legal consultant at Al Kabban & Associates Advocates and Legal Consultants, who is representing the investor, said: "If a dispute between the investor and sponsor is pending in the court, it is not fair for any party to encroach on the school and take possession by force."
The investor, Abdul Lahir, who has been running the school for the last three decades, said they constructed the school building at Al Qusais. "An agreement was signed between the female sponsor and the investor - attested by the notary public of a Dubai court on July 5, 1988. As per the agreement, the investor alone is entitled to the profit, while the sponsor would receive an annual sponsorship fees from the investor. This system has been in place for the last 30 years."
He claimed that the sponsor recently changed the legal status of the school from sole establishment to a limited liability company (LLC). The sponsor reportedly did not inform the investor about the changes she made in the licence. After this, the sponsor's son tried to interfere in the management of the school and increased the sponsorship fees substantially, Lahir claimed, adding that the investor and the school management refused to pay "such an exorbitant amount". Later, to settle the issue amicably, the investor paid Dh3 million as sponsorship fees for the next 15 years.
The investor and some school staff have complained that they suffered "physical and mental harassment" and were even threatened. They told Khaleej Times that last week, the sponsor's son "brought some security guards" and prevented a staff member and the investor from entering the school premises. When they tried to get in, they were pushed out, causing injury to the manager, who lodged a complaint at Al Quasis police station against the sponsor. Another technician, who works in the school, alleged that he was harassed and assaulted by "some unknown people" in one of the rooms in the school. Some employees said that the security forcibly took "vital papers" related to the school.
When Khaleej Times asked the sponsor's son about the incident, he said he will not comment on the case as it is pending in the court.
"We hope the government will seriously look into the unpleasant incidents. While the attested investment agreement is in force, untimely action from the sponsor to change the legal status of the licence and adding a new partner by suppressing facts will amount to breach of trust," said Adv Shamsudeen.
Lahir claimed that as per the agreement, the entire investment in the school belonged to them. "The rights, duties, obligations and liabilities of both the sponsor and the investor have been very clearly mentioned in the attested agreement and we have been performing our obligations without any breach till now," he said. "We are regularly paying the sponsorship fees and carrying out the maintenance work of the school occasionally, while paying the rent for the land to the government without any delay.
"We don't understand why the sponsor and her son are creating all these troubles to damage the reputation of the school. The claim of the sponsor that the school belongs to them is not true by law and it is baseless."
Parents raise concern
Some parents, who were unaware of the dispute, raised concerns over the "unpleasant situation" on the school premises and said it would affect the education process and "pollute the healthy environment" of the school. They said the presence of so many security guards on campus was a "worrying sight".
They also said they had heard rumours that the school would be sold off, "which would affect their wards' future".