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Closing of special needs centre leaves parents in limbo

20 children of determination will be affected as PACE Centre in Umm Suqeim confirms it is closing by June

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
PACE (Potential Adaptive Child Education) Centre a special needs school in Umm Suqeim.
Gulf News

Dubai: The closure of PACE Centre for people of determination from June has left parents scrambling to find an alternative school to accommodate their children by September.

The sudden announcement, parents said, will affect almost 20 families, especially those with children in higher grades.

In a statement, the special-education school in Umm Suqeim confirmed to Gulf News on Thursday that it is shuttering its doors at the end of the school year.

“PACE Centre has served the special needs community for two years and we are extremely proud of all that we accomplished in the two years and cannot be more thankful to all our supporters and those who believed in us,” said Hennie Ferreira, chief operating officer, Dubai Education.

“Unfortunately, the sustainability of a centre of such high standards is not viable in the current economic environment. Therefore, we had to take the difficult decision to close down the centre and we informed all the parents of the closure,” he added.

Ferreira pledged the school will assist parents in the search for new student placements in September.

“PACE Centre has established a dedicated team to work with the parents and other centres in Dubai to arrange placement of the children in other centres with the least amount of disruption. The well-being of the children remains our main concern and priority of PACE. We would like to thank the parents and partner centres for their cooperation and assistance during this period of transition.”

Parents, however, said they should have been informed much earlier about the school’s plan to close because they now fear their children may not have a place in other schools.

Pradeep Mahajan, whose 14-year-old son with autism has been going to the centre since September 2017, said other centres have waiting lists or are selective with the students they choose.

“It was the beginning of Ramadan when they told us the school was shutting down. There was no real support or explanation to what’s going on and that’s not fair for the 20 families. There should have been an earlier notice,” said Mahajan, from the UK.

Mahajan said the centre gave the parents only two options for schools, and that hasn’t helped.

“We went to see one of the centres and they said they will be selective with the children they take in. The other school said how can they plan for the influx of new students. Some schools might say we can’t take severe cases, or they don’t have enough staff. It is a catastrophe,” said the father of two.

Also, Mahajan won’t be able to return his son to the previous school he used to go to because of a long waiting list “that can take years”.

Similarly, Nazir Veliyil said his son with autism is 17 years’ old, which makes it even more difficult to get another centre to accept him because of the age cap of 18 years of age.

“I can’t keep him at home, he is big in size. All the families are suffering and we can’t find a suitable place at the moment. The PACE Centre was a very good school. I wish someone could come forward to support the centre because it can help us,” said the Indian resident.

Veliyil said he already approached another centre who told him they cannot accommodate his boy because of his age. “Where will all these children go?”

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