Dubai schools can't suspend students over unpaid fees
Dubai - Parents and schools must work out a payment plan so the child's education does not get affected.
Schools in Dubai are not allowed to suspend or ban pupils from taking final exams if their parents have not paid the tuition fees, a top official has reiterated.
"Schools have a right to receive fees in return for the education provided. However, as per regulations, schools are not allowed to stop students from completing their academic year or appearing for examinations due to non-payment of fees," said Amal Belhasa, CEO of Knowledge and Human Development Policies at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
It's a policy that Indian expat Iram Shehzadi had encountered firsthand when she and her husband lost their jobs and could no longer pay the school fees of their seven-year-old daughter.
"My husband and I both lost our jobs in October and it's been very difficult since. I was also pregnant last year and we have a newborn to take care of," Shehzadi said.
"We paid half of the fees for Grade 1 and we don't have funds to pay the remaining."
Although they weren't able to pay the balance within the school year, their child was able to complete first grade.
According to Belhasa, parents and schools must work out a payment plan so the child's education does not get affected.
"Schools can withhold final examination results and transfer letter until the fees are paid in full, as agreed between both parties in the parent-school contract. While parents are usually committed towards their financial obligations, those who need the flexibility must engage with the school and work towards agreeing on a suitable payment plan," Belhasa said.
The official pointed out that schools also have rights.
Schools are allowed to refuse entry for students whose parents have not paid re-registration fees, which ultimately means the parent did not confirm re-enrolment of the student in the upcoming academic year.
Now, this is the problem that Shehzadi is currently facing.
"When I went to re-enroll my daughter for Grade 2, I was told that she would not be allowed to sit in class until we pay the fees. I used to earn Dh2,000 and my husband used to earn Dh5,000. We somehow made ends meet back then, but when we lost our jobs, everything around us failed.
"We are trying to find new jobs, but it's been very tough," she said.
Khaleej Times has highlighted the stories of several parents who struggle to pay the tuition fees of their children.
Help from charities
For parents who cannot afford to pay the tuition fees or registration fees at all, there are charity organisations that are willing to extend help.
Emirates Red Crescent Society, Bait Al Kheir and Dar Al Ber are some of the charity groups that are available for parents in need.
In some cases, expats reach out to their embassies, consulates or associations.
Education is a right of every child, lawyers remind parents
Sending kids to school must be a top priority for parents - as every child has the right to an education, lawyers have said.
And UAE parents whose children are not going to school can be held legally accountable under the Child Rights Law, they added.
Haytham Alieh, a partner at DWF Middle East LLP, said: "Under the child right's law, if the authorities see that the parents are deliberately neglecting the education of the children, they can interfere.
"Part of the law is to ensure a proper living for a child, where he can live safely and have access to education. It will be taken on a case-by-case basis and is not a 'one-rule-for-all' kind of situation."
The comments by lawyers have been made after Khaleej Times reported several stories of children out of school - some for several years - due to nonpayment of fees or expired visas.
Another lawyer, Ali Al Assaad, said: "There's no way we can force a school to provide free education. At the end of the day, there is a contract between parents and schools and that contract needs to be honoured. If there is any room for mediation or to reach an amicable settlement, the authorities will support that."