Many Syrian families heaved a sigh of relief as they fled their war-torn country for the UAE. However, things are not that all bright for many of them.
Thousands of Syrian children are on the waiting lists of overcrowded charity schools across the country and Khaleej Times spoke to the families of 12 of them.
A Syrian resident in Ajman, Abdul Al Razzak, said four out of five of his children have not been to school since 2013. His children, Fadi (18), Hekmat (16), Asmaa (9), and Mohamed Arkar (6), have been placed on a waiting list. Desperate to learn, the children have been studying from any books they can find while they wait for a spot to open up.
Al Razzak said: “My wife and children left our home and all of our belongings to save their lives. I moved them to Turkey, but there was no future for them there, so I brought them here. Today, they are still not in school.
“My youngest one always asks me when he will be starting sch ool and I don’t know what to say. A charity school accepted my 14-year-old daughter, but the rest are still waiting. My salary is not enough to place them in private schools. They’re too expensive.”
Another Syrian father in Ajman, Hassan Mohammed Rakhmon, brought his family to the UAE in March, 2016. His wife and four children also left behind their home and belongings to escape the war and start a “normal life”.
Rakhmon, who earns Dh6,500 per month at a transportation company, said he also cannot afford private schooling – leaving his children among many others on a long waiting list.
Rakhmon said: “My family was trapped in Aleppo for so long. Our family home was destroyed. We don’t have anything left. Since then, we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives. My daughter and son have already missed one school year and it doesn’t seem like they’ll be enrolled anywhere next year as well, because the schools are full.”
Rakhmon has four children, eight-year-old Mohammed, seven-year-old Rawaa, six-year-old Hamad and a four-year-old daughter. Mohammed has been accepted into a school and teaches what he learns there to his siblings at home, who are desperately waiting to put on a school uniform one day.
Akil Jansem, a father of six children, is also facing a similar problem. Two of his children are going to school but the remaining four face a potentially long waiting period.
Jansem’s family moved here eight months ago from Aleppo. He said: “Their future is at stake. We are happy we are safe, but I’m worried that my children will not have a bright future if they don’t receive an education.”
Abdul Basit, another Syrian father, is also worried about his 15-year-old daughter’s future. Ghofran Basit has not been to school for nearly three years.
Basit said: “I still remember how happy she was when she moved out of Syria. It breaks my heart to see her so depressed now.”
James Mullan, who co-founded the online guide to the UAE schools, said: “There are 173 private schools in Dubai and we know it’s a very competitive environment. It would be helpful if schools can at least think about it. They are beginning to introduce scholarships, where they are looking for talented students and that would really benefit the school as well.”
What are charity schools?
Charity schools in the UAE are some of the oldest schools in the country that cost parents about Dh1,000 to Dh7,000 each year.
The National Charity Schools have been operating in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman since 1983.
These schools have more than 1,000 students enrolled, however, they only can accommodate 700-1,000 students. To accommodate more students, these schools introduced morning and evening classes.
Tahani Alhaji, the secretary at the Al Ahlia Charity School in Ajman, told Khaleej Times: “We have nearly 2,400 students, but we are overcrowded now. We have more than 2,000 students on the waiting list and each year that number gets higher.
“These are students who have come from Syria or Yemen. They came from countries that had a lot of problems and they usually look for schools like ours because it’s a charity school.”
Ajman’s National Charity School principal Hussan Khatib has previously said that his school also had more than 2,000 people on its waiting list.
Charity schools in the UAE
© Khaleej TimesFeb 2017