There are 9,000 children who go to nine Pakistani mission schools in the UAE. Picture used for illustrative purposes only Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf news archives

Dubai: More than 20,000 Pakistani children, who come from low-income families in the UAE, do not go to school, revealed the Pakistani Ambassador to the country.

In addition to the financial burden, Asif Durrani said there are limited seats in schools being run under the supervision of the Pakistani missions, which offer the cheapest fees in the country.

“There are 9,000 children who go to nine Pakistani mission schools available in the UAE. They are the cheapest schools in the country and so they are overcrowded. They cannot accommodate more students,” said the ambassador.

The fees in Pakistani mission schools range roughly from Dh185 to Dh300 per month while some schools that caters to a higher social class charge up to Dh500 a month for higher classes. This is much cheaper than fees in other schools in the UAE, which can reach up to Dh100,000 a year.

Durrani said because of social and cultural reasons, the majority of the 20,000 children are girls, whose parents chose to make them stay at home instead of their male counterparts. According to him, around 1.2 million Pakistanis live in the UAE.

“We have set up a team to work on a project which will be in charge of registering the cases of families who can’t afford to pay school fees.”

Durrani urged the community members to come forward and help existing schools expand to be able to enrol more students, which he believes is the most effective way to help. He also called on the community to reach out if they want to help pay the fees of some students.

The ambassador said around $25 billion (Dh98.2 billion) has been invested in the country by the 1.2 million Pakistanis living in the UAE, so he believes the community should come forward and help the children get an education.

Dr Abdur Rashid Bangash, principal of Shaikh Rashid Al Maktoum Pakistani School in Dubai, said limited seats and financial burden are an issue for Pakistani parents.

He revealed that his school refused the admission of 800 students this year because they were not able to pay the fees and there were no seats either. He said parents who can’t afford the fees or can’t find seats should send their children back to Pakistan or seek help from local charities.

Bangash said that the school charges Dh285 a month (Dh2,800 per year), an amount that is not sufficient to pay the school’s daily expenses leave alone expand and improve standards to meet school inspectors’ expectations.

“We need expansions; we need to construct more classrooms to take more students. My school has the space but we need help constructing because Dubai is very expensive and we depend solely on fees, which are enough to pay the salaries of teachers for 10 months — and we pay their salaries for 12 months,” he said.

Tabinda Al Ghizala, Principal of Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School, also agreed that expansion is important to help take in more Pakistani students from low-income families.

“Parents have difficulties paying fees. Those who cannot afford to pay are referred to local charity foundations with recommendation from the schools. They usually receive the help needed,” she said.

An unofficial source from two education authorities in the country said local charity foundations are usually in charge of helping such cases as opposed to governmental authorities.

Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School in Abu Dhabi has more than 2,000 students enrolled and charges an annual fee that ranges from Dh3,400 to Dh5,500.

“Most of our students are less privileged so fees are very minimal, which makes expanding very difficult without support. We need expansions and improvements in the infrastructure of the school to meet the standards of Adec (Abu Dhabi Education Council),” Al Ghizala said.

Principals of Pakistani schools that were contacted by Gulf News said the limited resources restrict them from living up to educational standards of the country and receive a good rating from educational authorities.

“I believe that we are doing missionary work in tough circumstances and we are proud of it because our students are very capable and they graduate to go to universities. The only sad thing is that they may not be able to enjoy the facilities that other students are enjoying in different schools,” Al Ghizala added.

If you are interested in providing help for Pakistani children unable to attend schools in the country contact the ambassador at: amb.a.durrani@pakistanembassyuae.org