Dubai: Although residents in Dubai have responded to the call to save Allama Iqbal Islamia Pakistani School, the authority concerned has ruled out the possibility of allowing the school to function from its current premises.
The school is in a dilapidated state, and on June 25 this year the Knowledge and Human Development (KHDA) formally gave the school notice of closure, with the owner's full co-operation.
This step followed repeated attempts by the Ministry of Education over the past six or seven years to get structural repairs carried out, according to a statement issued by the KHDA on Tuesday.
Gulf News reported on Sunday that the future of around 600 poor students is at stake as the 20-year-old school has been ordered to shut down.
The report got massive response from the residents, who showed interest to save the school. Local radio stations also took up the matter to save the school, which also offers free education to some 240 students. The school needed at least Dh450,000 to pay the building rent and do repairs.
The KHDA also responded to clarify the situation. A statement reads: "Last year, the KHDA took over licensing of schools in Dubai, it also requested that repairs be done [at Allama Iqbal Islamia School]. Some work was carried out, but it was not considered sufficient.
"At the time, classes were being held in the villa kitchen and even in the bathrooms, and the wooden ceilings were considered unsafe, the KHDA said. "Also, the school register of more than 550 pupils was putting an enormous strain on the overcrowded building. Obviously, the safety of pupils at schools is of paramount importance to this Authority.
"KHDA refrained from issuing the closure order last year while it made sure all of the pupils would have other schools to go to. This has now been done; we have written assurances for far more places than are needed, at Pakistan Education Academy and Al Farooq Pakistani Islamic School.
Mohammad Darwish, Chief of Licensing and Customer Relations at KHDA, said: "We were very pleased to find places for these children because that has made our closure plan possible. We hope this has been communicated clearly to parents, as was agreed before we issued the notice of closure.
He said there are now two villa schools remaining in Dubai, both of which will be moving to new premises during the next academic year.
A Ministry of Cabinet Affairs Decree (Number 28, 1999) ordered that villa schools should be phased out, so by next year Dubai's work on this will be complete.
Col (retd) Naseer Dar, Principal of Al Farooq School, which follows Pakistani curriculum, said that they were asked to take children but so far they have not received any pupil from Allama Iqbal School.
A Pakistani community member said that some community groups had been helping the school in the past but it did not improve.
"I would say that the money being collected for the school should be used to pay students' fees in other schools if the school is not allowed to open again," he suggested.
Rao Afzal, an education officer at the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai, said that they were aware the school was running in very poor conditions. "I would suggest that a committee should be formed to rebuild the school for the low income group of people," he said.
Meanwhile, Rana Mohammad Ramzan, principal of the school, said that they should be given one more year because his students have not got admissions in the schools referred by the KHDA.
"We appreciate their concern but our students cannot afford to pay high fees in other schools and also I am worried about students who are getting free education, books and uniforms," he said.
"I don't want anyone to run school on commercial basis rather I want to make it a complete charity school to provide free education to people who cannot afford to pay fee. I want a board of directors to be formed to run the school and decide on the future of poor children," he said.