Dubai, UAE: Children shouldn’t be humiliated over nonpayment of school tuition fees” – this is the message from parents, students and teachers who have experienced instances where pupils are suspended or asked to wait outside of class until their parents have paid the remaining fees.
Schools are not allowed to suspend students without the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) approval. In Abu Dhabi, according to the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, “schools can suspend students after following the proper steps, or withhold transcripts if fees are not paid”. But, schools cannot prevent students from taking any end of year exams.
Several Dubai-based parents have spoken out on how their kids were suspended for non-payment of fees.
Saba Nouman, a mother of four children, said her children were not allowed to “sit in class” because of non-payment of tuition fees. “Last year, we paid around Dh18,000, which was some percentage of the fees and to reserve seats. Before school started in September, they started sending us reminders for the remainder of the fees. We were waiting for some payments, so, my husband said we will pay the fees a week later,” Nouman said.
“But, when I dropped my kids off at school, I got a call two hours later and they said my kids weren’t allowed to sit in class because of non-payment of fees. They asked me to pick them up. There were so many kids sitting in the library as their parents didn’t pay the fees. Also, I didn’t get my first term results as my second term fees weren’t paid.”
Another parent, Samika, said her seven-year-old son was also kicked out of a different Dubai-based school for non-payment of fees. Her son was forced to sit in the library the entire day and the staff didn’t inform her about the incident, according to Samika.
“After that incident, I complained to the KHDA and removed my son from that school immediately,” she said.
A former student in Dubai, Kiran Gayathri, remembers getting “rude behaviour” from teachers due to non-payment of fees.
“I was asked to stay home on several occasions due to non-payment of fees. At some point, some teachers who knew were also very rude and disrespectful. My mum couldn’t afford new school uniforms, so, I wore the wrong uniform to school one day. She said in front of the entire class ‘I don’t care what is happening in your home or that your mum can’t afford it. It’s your problem,” Gayathri said.
Anita Singh, vice-principal at Abu Dhabi’s Shining Star International School, said that children “shouldn’t be humiliated under any circumstance”. She said instances as such can leave an “everlasting impact” on them.
“As an educationist, that should be the last thought in our minds and under no circumstance should a child be made to go through any humiliation of any kind for any reason, let alone a monetary reason,” Singh said.
“I do agree fees are a must to run the schools, but a few late payments will surely not hurt anyone. Schools need to think twice before taking such steps. They should realise what the social and psychological impact of such an inhumane act may have on a child’s mind. Children are put under undue stress both emotionally and socially when they face the humiliation of being suspended. The suspension can lead to a child developing a low self-esteem which affects their studies.
“In some extreme cases, I have heard about students who develop hatred towards their parents for putting them through this humiliation. Do we really need to promote this as educationist? Such irrational act by schools leads senior students to believe that money is the most important thing in life. The values taught to them in lower grades become a farce to them as they do not see their school heads showing those values when they need it. The younger ones are like a blob of clay, ready to be molded and engraved with what we teach them. The big question is what do we really want them to learn? The values of caring, empathy or the value of money in today’s world?”
Students in the UAE believe humiliating them over tuition fees in front of the entire class can leave them “mentally scarred and stressed”.
Sinnamari P, a student in Our Own English High School, Fujairah, said students can be left feeling depressed and embarrassed once thrown out of class for nonpayment of fees.
He believes the worst part for a student is when he or she has to face his peers after returning to class. “Once they are not allowed into classrooms, a lot of questions pop into their minds, for example: ‘How am I going to face my friends? How am I going to cover the topics that were taught on that particular day?’. So, it is necessary for schools to allow students into classrooms despite delayed payment of tuition fees,” he said. Another student, Devika Sajeesh, said that it is high time people realised that education is a right, not a privilege.
“Education is said to be a student’s right then why are students deprived of it? Shaming a student in front of the whole class will, without any doubt, bring their confidence level down and emotionally scar them,” Sajeesh said. “An idea that they are at a lower level than the rest of the class will be implanted into their young minds. Many schools have also adopted the idea of holding the results until the fee due is paid off. When dictating the scores of the test in the whole class, holding back the results of one or two students because they haven’t paid their fee is not the best way to motivate a student.”
Nada Fathima, a student at the New Indian Model School, Dubai, said that quality education is more important than tuition fees. She said students can miss out on important lessons if they are suspended due to monetary reasons.
“I think the main motive of schools is to provide quality education and not collecting fees,” she said. “Fees should not be a student’s responsibility. It is the parents’ or the guardian’s duty to pay the fees and send the kids to school. If a student is not allowed to attend the classes it will affect their overall performance. Tuition fees have changed the way students see education. Providing good education is more important than money. Fees can be paid anytime but the classes missed and the portions taken won’t be taught again.”
Dr Amy Bailey, Clinical Psychologist and Head of Psychology, kidsFIRST Medical Centre
Research by the Children’s Society in 2016 found that children and young people are not immune to the stress of financial insecurity. They can feel guilty of not being able to help their parents and may feel that they are an additional burden on their parents. This can then impact child’s confidence and sense of self-worth. They can also feel socially isolated from peers.
When children are within families experiencing financial stress, it is important to be supportive and mindful of the psychological impact this is having on the child and to try not to compound this further by adding additional stress to the child. The results of such incidents as described can result in the young person feeling a sense of shame or embarrassment if their peers become aware of private family matters. In young people, these feelings are often magnified as they are less able to reason through this and thus this problem can feel like the end of their world. They may also feel like they are being punished for a situation that is outside of their control thus creating feelings of helplessness which can lead to low mood and anxiety.
In order to reduce the psychological stress of financial insecurity on children, it is important to ensure their sense of stability in the world around them. Parents should over emphasise to the child about how much they are loved and cared for and that no matter what happens, they will be there to support them. Positive parenting practices and good parent-child relationships can substantially reduce the psychological impact of financial family strain on children. It is important that children are reassured that they are not to blame nor are they a burden on resources. Where young people experience shame due to the family situation, it is important to ensure the young person knows that the situation is not a reflection on them. The young person should not develop negative perceptions of themselves.
The young person should be reassured that though this is a crisis situation, it is one that can be worked through but might mean some changes need to be made in terms of costs and budget. As a community, one way to reduce feelings of shame associated with financial stress is to have more mixed communities where people regularly come into contact with others of different financial positions. These reduce negative stereotypes and thus the stigma of low income is removed.
While parents have a responsibility to meet their financial commitment towards a school, stopping a child from attending classes should not be allowed. An effective solution would be to start a fund utilising a small percentage of the overall collected fees for students who deserve assistance. Another option would be a monthly fee structure.
Adithya Binoy Mathews, ASPAM Indian International School
Students facing financial difficulties must be rendered help by encouraging student-led initiatives. They must also be provided with psychological aid to help them overcome the difficult situation. Schools must ensure better relationships with parents so as to encourage fee payment and timely cooperation.
Hiba Moideen, New Indian Model School, Dubai
I would feel sad if I am not allowed to attend classes and it would affect my studies. If schools barred pupils for unpaid fees, they are likely to perform poorly in class and the school will lose out on good grades. Further, this will not only affect students confidence and self-esteem but also affect their concentration and performance.
Hritika Tripathi, Delhi Private School, Sharjah
To overcome these growing concerns, school authorities should have a transparent system of correspondence to ensure fee dues are cleared on time. Parents too must connect with the school to address the grievance rather than showing negligence. A healthy connection between parent and school will eliminate all obstacles.
Tarannum Sheikh, Primary section head, Indian AcademyApr 2018