20,000 Pakistani Children 'Absent from School' in UAE

20,000 Pakistani Children 'Absent from School' in UAE
By James Mullan
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There are approximately 20,000 Pakistani children in the UAE who are not attending school, according to the Pakistani ambassador Asif Durrani. Speaking to local newspaper Gulf News Durrani said that the situation was mainly a combination of two factors - first, low income families cannot afford to send the children to school and second, the limited number of places available in schools run by Pakistani missions.

The schools run by these missions are among the cheapest in the UAE ranging from 185 dhs to 300 dhs per child per month. The more expensive mission schools charge around 500 dhs a month. Durrani called on the resident Pakistani population in the UAE to support an expansion programme for schools as well as the establishment of a fund to help low income families.

Tanvir Khawaja, President of Pakistan Business Council responded to the ambassador’s plea: “As members of the Pakistani community who are living in the UAE, this issue naturally becomes our responsibililty. Dubai has become a very expensive place, where education fees and rent are increasing, so it can be difficult for people with low incomes to maintain their families here.”

An organisation which has been involved in supporting Pakistani students is Pakistan Professional Wings and its chairman Mir Waqas Ellahi spoke about the situation:  “We have spent one million dirhams on educating 200 students every year for the last six years in Abu Dhabi. We have even helped expand a school’s classrooms and are planning to refurbish a school in Al Ain but, obviously, because of the large number of students there is still a lot to be done.” Raising awareness of the situation is, said Ellahi, a key factor.

The vast majority of new schools opening in Dubai in particular continue to be high end, UK curriculum schools funded by regional conglomerates and/or private equity companies. There is strong anecdotal evidence that expatriate families of all nationalities on middle to low incomes have been opting to send their families home as living costs have risen in the past few years. The most significant costs for families are housing and education for those who have families here.

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