In UAE, affordable school brings new hope for Pakistani students

Omar Farooqui with the children at the opening of the academy. (Photo Credit: Hope Academy)
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Updated 15 December 2019

In UAE, affordable school brings new hope for Pakistani students

  • A 2017 HSBC study said the UAE had the second-highest school fees in the world
  • A majority of the children studying at Dubai’s ‘Hope Academy’ have never been to school

DUBAI: Hundreds of students with financial constraints, a majority of them Pakistanis, are waiting in line for enrollment in Dubai’s Hope Academy since it opened its doors just over a month ago.

Over 250 children-- from kindergarten level to the 8th grade-- are currently studying at the affordable, community-based school, in a country where school fees are otherwise considered the second highest in the world, according to a 2017 HSBC study.

The teachers of Hope Academy. (Photo Credit: Hope Academy)

“These are children of those people living in the UAE who cannot afford to send their children to regular schools,” Omar Farooqui, President of Coded Minds, told Arab News, and added: “It is as if a ghost population has come to the fore.”

Coded Minds is a Dubai-based global iSTEAM and leadership education company and has founded Hope Academy.

“Hope Academy is a movement,” Farooqui continued. “It was an idea that came from behind a table where we discussed how we could bring quality STEM education to the masses.”

“We are expanding to other emirates including Abu Dhabi and Ajman to accommodate 500 other children by January,” he said.

Statistics gathered by the academy show that 29.94 percent of the children seeking admission belongs to Pakistan, followed by 11.65 percent Syrians and Indians-- from a total of 45 different nationalities.

“These are the children of people who have not regularized their status in the UAE or cannot afford school fees, widowers, single parents and many others with unfortunate circumstances,” Farooqui said.

“But we didn’t realize that there was this huge number,” he added.

He said that there were families with multiple children who had never been to school.

The academy charges $286 per year and teaches core subjects -Science, Technology, English and Maths. 

The academy will also be partnering with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the future and offer its services to the children of 8,000 refugee families in the country, Farooqui said.

Mohammed Rayyan on his first day at school. (Photo Credit: Hope Academy)

Teachers are hired full-time, with a whopping 70 percent of them, women. Since many of the children have never been to regular schools, the academy carries out an assessment of their educational readiness and adjusts them in classes accordingly.

For Ishaq Ahmed who is from Swabi in northwest Pakistan, the opportunity is a Godsend. Ironically, Ahmed is a school driver but he cannot afford to send his five-year-old son to the school where he works.

“I am so happy I got to know about this academy and now my son is a part of it,” Ahmed said.

This is the first time his son has been to school.

“Whenever I get the time in between work, I go and check on my child. My heart fills with pride on seeing him sit in class and learn,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD) became the first welfare association in the UAE to join hands with Hope Academy, followed by the Pakistan Social Centre Sharjah.

Rizwan Fancy, Director for Welfare at PAD said: “There are a large number of Pakistani children in the UAE who cannot continue their education because of financial problems. Such initiatives will help lots of families who are desperate for an opportunity to send their children back to the classroom.”

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

Updated 10 min 1 sec ago

UNGA adopts Pakistan-sponsored resolution on respect for ‘sacred religious symbols’

  • Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) 
  • Deliberate vilification and negative stereotyping of Islam perpetuates ‘clash of civilizations,’ Pakistan’s envoy to the UN says

ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from the European Union and other western nations and India, the UN General Assembly Wednesday adopted a Pakistan and Philippines sponsored resolution on inter-religious dialogue that emphasized the need to respect “sacred religious symbols,” Pakistan’s state news agency reported on Thursday. 

The resolution received a majority of 90 votes, none against, with 52 abstentions, APP said.

Protests broke out in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan last month, over France’s response to a deadly attack in October on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to pupils during a civics lesson.

For Muslims, depictions of the Prophet are blasphemous.

Pakistan has condemned the recent re-printing of the cartoons. The French president has paid tribute to the murdered teacher, fueling further anger in the Muslim world. 

“Facing strong opposition from the powerful western bloc mainly based on freedom of expression, the Pakistan Mission worked hard to rally the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation] and other developing countries to garner support for inclusion of new elements in the resolution,” APP reported. 

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Munir Akram, referred to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s repeated calls to the international community and the United Nations to counter Islamophobia and promote respect for religious sensitivities.

“Ambassador Akram also emphasized that the deliberate “vilification and negative stereotyping of adherents of one of the largest religions in the world –Islam — only perpetuates dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies such as the ‘clash of civilizations’ and must be addressed on urgent basis,” APP quoted the ambassador as saying. 

“After some intensive lobbying, the resolution acknowledges — for the first time — the significance and respect for religious symbols,” the state news agency added. “It also stressed that the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities, and must therefore be subjected to legitimate restrictions.”

“The resolution condemned any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to violence or discrimination,” APP said, “and underlines the importance of interrelgious and intercultural dialogue as a valuable tool for promoting social cohesion, and peace and development in the world.”