Abu Dhabi: On his very first day of school, Adhyan Agarwal stood near the front door carrying his schoolbag and water bottle, while his parents gave him some more last-minute tips.
“Listen to your teachers and make sure you finish your breakfast. Pay attention in class as well,” advised Amit Agarwal, his 35-year-old father.
While Sunday marks the start of another semester at most schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, it is also the beginning of the 2013-2014 academic year at many Asian curriculum schools. Like Adhyan, hundreds of other young children are set to embark upon their schooling at facilities offering the Indian curriculum, and parents expressed their great delight at having their children enrolled.
“It took us nearly four months to find a seat for Adhyan so although we have first-day jitters, we are also excited,” Agarwal told Gulf News.
“Adhyan was enrolled at a nursery for more than a year, but this is the first time he will be part of a big school. There will be much more responsibility on him, and we’ve been preparing him for months. We’ve also bought him new stationery, books and lunchboxes to mark the occasion,” the father added.
Other parents who had previously been worried about securing school seats for their children also said that they had finally found admission.
“I registered at multiple Indian schools for my son in December, especially as we were anxious that he be enrolled. Finally, we received a positive response in March,” said Jiby Thomas, a finance and administration manager from India.
In recent years, parents in the emirate have been concerned about a limited number of school seats, especially at Indian curriculum schools. While some of the shortage stems from the closure of private villa schools, which were found to be unsafe for children, limited investment in the private education sector so far has also meant that few new schools seats become available each year.
Most Indian schools tend to receive many more registrations than available seats at KG 1. As reported by Gulf News in February, principals at Indian curriculum schools however said it is difficult to estimate the exact number of pupils looking for admission each year because parents tend to submit registrations at multiple schools in the hope of getting their children enrolled.
During the 2012-2013 academic year, 15 schools offering the Indian curriculum were operational in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, and they offered 29,700 seats between them, said M.K. Lokesh, Indian Ambassador to the UAE. Ahead of the new academic year, a new Indian school, entitled Bright Riders, has also opened in Mussafah.
In addition, the school administrator at the Private International English School said that four additional sections had been opened for KG 1 enrolment.
“We already had eight KG 1 sections in the 2012-2013 academic year, each with 25 pupils. For 2013-2014, we have added more sections, thus creating seats for 100 more children,” he said.
Still, some worried parents reported that they had resorted to novel methods to ensure that their children were accepted into school. One 33-year-old father said he had shifted his eight-year-old daughter to a different school to secure admission for his son.
“I learnt that KG 1 seats were available at a particular school in Abu Dhabi, and that my son would be prioritised for admission if he had a sibling already enrolled there. So I applied for admission in Grade 3 for my daughter. Once she was accepted, my son too was given a place,” he said.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been as successful in finding a school seat.
F.V., 37, said his child had still not been offered a place.
“I am still continuing to visit the schools regularly in the hope that some parent will withdraw their child, thus creating space for my son. Otherwise, I will have to send my family back to India, and this is something I really want to avoid,” the frustrated parent said.