Doha: The UN expert on the right to education warned on Monday that excessive fees charged to the children of migrant workers in Qatar meant that thousands were unable to study.
Most of the country’s 2.75 million residents, 90 percent of whom are foreigners, are from poor developing countries working on projects linked to the 2022 World Cup and are assured a monthly minimum wage of just $200.
“The fees charged in these schools can reach high levels in relation to the possibilities of these families,” UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education Koumbou Boly Barry said at a media briefing in Doha.
Boly Barry estimated that around 4,000 migrant children were unable to meet the high school fees and did not study as a result.
“Those fees should be lifted so that all children can enjoy their right to education,” added the former education minister from Burkina Faso.
Boly Barry visited Qatar from December 8 to 16 “to assess efforts in the country to implement the right to education.”
She toured primary and secondary schools and universities, both public and private, and held meetings with administrators and officials.
“People have the right to free, inclusive and quality education. I am concerned at the high fees that non-Qataris are sometimes having to pay, which means some children are currently not attending school,” she said.
Like other Gulf states, gas-rich Qatar offers totally free education to its citizens including at university levels.
The Gulf state has poured resources into its own universities, a cultural foundation, and wooed foreign universities to establish satellite campuses in the desert monarchy.
UN experts are independent and do not speak for the world body, but their findings can be used to inform the work of UN organisations, including the rights council.
Qatar has extended an open invite to all of the UN’s special rapporteurs ahead of the 2022 World Cup in the country.
The latest working group will present its final report on the visit to the UN Human Rights Council next year.
Migrant communities in Qatar have been encouraged to establish their own schools with their own curricula resulting in institutions catering exclusively for Indian or Filipino children, for example.
Private schools account for 196,000 pupils, according to official statistics, while 122,000 children are educated in the state sector.
Boly Barry praised Qatar for “the great importance it attaches to education”.