As times get tough for many low-income families and refugees continue to arrive from other Middle Eastern countries, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com, takes a look at the UAE's numerous Charity Schools.
Charity schools are, according to the National, “a network of bare-bones academies that cater to the children of low-income Arab expatriates.”
Interestingly, these schools are not actually free of charge, but run on a mix of low fees, school places at cost and full scholarships. Maximum fees per year, range from around AED 2,000 for Primary Grades, and up to AED 7,500 for Secondary school.
How it began…
The Charity School movement was established in 1983 by businessman and philanthropist, Mr Juma Al Majid, in response to the decision by the Dubai Government at the time to exclude non-Emirati children from the public education system.
Al Majid initially created two schools, one for boys and one for girls, with greatly reduced private school fees, allowing the children of low income families access to education.
The first schools to open were the Khansa Girls Primary School on the Corniche in Deira and the Salah al-Din School for boys in Al Qusais, (both of which are still operating, however their status is unclear as there are no KHDA reports available).
A few years later land was allocated in Garhoud for a significantly bigger, co-curricular Charity school.
Expansion at the Garhoud branch was rapid, and in 1985/86 a decision was made that the school would operate in two ‘shifts,’ one in the morning and one in the evening.
Incredibly, the system allowed over 10,000 students from across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman access to affordable education.
However, the system was not without issues, as students had to make do with a shorter day and up to 75 percent of the teachers worked double shifts.
Speaking to the National in 2009, Dr Edris Mohammed Robin Edris, the general director of National Charity Schools said of the evening sessions, “the school day is shorter, ending at 8.30pm, and it has a negative effect on family life. "We have to give them only four hours," he said.
"We can't keep them until midnight. Our teachers, they have to go home, sleep, spend some time with their families. It is very painful."
Today, the shift system has gone at the Garhoud school, and although only rated Acceptable, the KHDA inspection report notes in addition to very respectable class sizes of 21 students it highlights many positive aspects of the school and areas of improvement.
However, the same cannot be said for many of the other charity schools which remain heavily oversubscribed, with tired facilities and a lack of resources.
The National Charity Schools Group...
National Charity Schools- Dubai Branch
Curriculum: Ministry of Education
Grades: 1 to 12
Fees: AED 4,277 to AED 7,841
Location: Al Garhoud, Dubai
Details: This really pretty large (over 5,000 students) co-curricular school was rated Acceptable in its most recent KHDA inspection report.
Although most of the Inspection report is rated Acceptable, of note is the Arabic language and Islamic studies which are consistently Good, as well as the Social Responsibility and Innovation elements which shot up in 2015/16 to Good to Very Good.
Other branches of the National Charity School:
National Charity School, Maysaloon District Branch, Sharjah
National Charity School-Boys, Diastema Branch, Sharjah
National Charity Private School, Qadisiyah Branch, Sharjah
National Charity School Ajman (currently has 2,000 students and a further 2,000 on the waiting list)
National Charity School-Girls, (Al Ahlia) Al Bustan Ajman
Other Charity Schools in the UAE...
Al Manama Charity Private School
Curriculum: Ministry of Education
Grades: 1 to 9
No of students: 531 students
Details: The 2014 Ajman Education Zone report, noted that while teachers lacked training opportunities, resources and all forms of IT, “students loved their school and this was evident in their attentive listening, praise for each other and respect for teachers. Simple displays of student work were pinned up in classrooms. Much of this work showed individuality, and a high standard of extended writing in Arabic and English. All subjects were celebrated but Islamic Studies was a focal point within it all. Students’ laughter was a memorable feature in classes and an indication of their appreciation for the education they received.”
Inspectors found student attainment to be high and awarded it Effective overall.
The Good news...
In March 2017, Dr. Kamal Farhat, National Charity School's Directorate General, and Prof. Abdel Moneim M. B. Ahmed, President MENA College of Management signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing a fast-track entry route for the students of the National Charity Schools into the Bachelor Programs offered at MCM.
The deal will see the top students of the National Charity Schools awarded numerous Academic Scholarships ranging from a full tuition fees waiver to additional partial waivers.