Sharjah: A long-time Egyptian teacher in Sharjah fears for his children’s education after losing his sight and job.
Hussein Abdelaal, 49, was an English teacher in public schools in the UAE from 1999 to 2017. He could no longer teach after going blind because of retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease.
Abdelaal’s gratuity of around Dh116,000 ran out about three months ago and the family has been surviving on loans from well-wishers, which have piled up to around Dh20,000.
The father of three is now extremely worried because his children’s education is at risk over unpaid fees.
Fees beyond means
His son Noor recently secured admission to a university in Sharjah but owes a balance of around Dh36,000 for the semester. Meanwhile, his daughters Yara and Farah, in grades nine and seven, respectively, need around Dh54,000 in total to clear the annual fees at their Sharjah school. Yara needs an additional Dh4,500 towards starting her three British IGCSE subjects for which she will be appearing for her board exams.
Abdelaal, from Cairo, has also been unable to settle around Dh10,000 in overdue rent from his previous tenancy contract for his two-bedroom flat in Sharjah’s Bu Tina area. Over and above that, he cannot afford to pay the Dh30,000 annual rent for his current contract, which began in April.
With zero income, Abdelaal has not been able to afford a surgery or medical insurance for his wife who is suffering from painful gall bladder stones. She only takes painkillers whenever the colic flares up and worsens her condition.
‘Dream in danger’
“My daughters are struggling with their online classes because I haven’t even been able to buy them the prescribed school books, let alone the tuition fees. My son’s dream has been to study business at a university, but that dream is in danger now because I cannot pay the overdue fees,” Abdelaal said.
Abdelaal said he tried to work from home as an Arabic-English translator, but only got small projects whose payments were miniscule compared to his dues.
What about charities?
A Dubai charity paid Dh8,000 for Noor’s university fees and Abdelaal managed to borrow another Dh5,000 but an outstanding amount of Dh36,000 is still unpaid — the deadline for which has been overshot already.
Abdelaal has reached out to other charities, but said the process will take too long for his immediate needs.
“One Sharjah charity had previously given me Dh2,000 for my three children; I’m very thankful to them. After all, this is not our right we’re asking for, it’s charity. However, time is not on our side and these amounts are not enough to solve our problems,” he rued.
Another charity told him it will take two months for an appointment, after which it will take another three months for whatever amount is approved to be released.
‘How long will they wait for me?’
“The educational fees are due immediately and so is the rent. If fact, they are all overdue. How long will the school wait for me? I’m under pressure to settle these expenses, apart from providing living expenses for my family. If we get evicted, we have nowhere to go. Our relatives in Cairo are poor themselves, they cannot take us in. I cannot find a regular job because I’m blind and my children are too young to work,” Abdelaal said.
He used to make around Dh10,200 a month as a high school teacher in 2017 until his eyesight worsened rapidly.
“In just two months, I nearly went blind. My condition was very aggressive and it was incurable. I was relieved of my duties. I briefly tried working at a private school, but they said, ‘we’re so sorry, but you cannot work like this’. I could barely see my students.
“There was a time when I used to provide well for my family and even those back home. It’s Allah’s will what has happened to me and I accept my fate. I’ve tried to make ends meet, but I cannot do it by myself. I just want my children to be happy and get an education,” Abdelaal said.
His residence visa will expire next month and Abdelaal is worried he will start incurring fines, besides no longer being able to sponsor his family.
Abdelaal said he didn’t owe any bank any money as he had never borrowed from them or took any credit card.