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.”

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

Updated 22 min 4 sec ago

Pakistan’s virus tally tops China’s as doctors warn of health crisis

  • People should not get scared of the surge in COVID-19 cases, insists the national health ministry
  • If rising trend of cases is not contained, health system may crumble, warns the Pakistan Medical Association

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s coronavirus infections have surpassed neighboring China as the national tally on Thursday reached 85,264 while doctors warned the government of a health crisis in the coming days if appropriate measures were not taken to flatten the curve.
China, where the virus emerged in December last year, has recorded 84,160 cases to date, according to the John Hopkins University. Pakistan’s death toll has reached 1,770 since February 26, when the country reported its first COVID-19 case, which is still considerably less than China where 4,638 deaths have so far been reported.
“People should not get scared by the surge in the number of cases. It’s a pandemic and we need to deal with it wisely and courageously,” Sajid Hussain Shah, spokesperson at the Ministry of National Health Services and Regulations, told Arab News on Thursday.
A total of 4,688 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours with 82 deaths, the highest single-day rise ever, landing the country at the 17th spot in terms of the coronavirus cases, the health ministry’s data showed.
The country has also enhanced its daily testing capacity to over 20,000 and so far conducted 615,511 tests.
The spike in the COVID-19 cases was witnessed immediately after the government eased the lockdown restrictions in mid-May, contrary to the recommendation of doctors and experts who advocated their extension to stem the spread of the virus.
Previously, the government had decided to shut down public places, transportation sector and markets on March 23. Now the authorities are blaming the people for not adhering to social distancing regulations and other precautions, pointing out that the negligence of the public has led to the growing outbreak.
“We have witnessed a spike in the cases after people violated the government’s prescribed precautionary measures,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News on Thursday.
The country’s federal capital has reported 3,544 positive coronavirus cases with 38 deaths and 5,680 tests so far.
“We are diligently working on contact tracing and surveillance in the high-risk population areas to contain the virus,” Zia said. “We are also ensuring smart lockdown in the areas where COVID-19 cases are reported to prevent its further spread.”
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), a professional organization of working doctors in the country, has blamed the government for the surge in the cases due to its “non-coherent and confusing policy” to deal with the disease.
“The government has failed to adopt a uniform policy on dealing with the virus from day one, so the result [the surge in the cases] is quite obvious,” Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, PMA secretary general, told Arab News.
He warned that the country’s health facilities had reached the brink of collapse with the sharp growth in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. “If the rising trend of the coronavirus cases is not contained or reversed, the health facilities may crumble in the coming days,” he said.
Another PMA worry relates to the increasing number of infections to doctors and paramedics working to treat the patients. At least 30 health care practitioners, including 26 doctors and four nurses, have died to date due to the virus while more than 2,100 have been infected so far, according to the PMA.
“Many private and public hospitals have already started refusing to admit coronavirus patients with ventilators and beds getting short in the medical facilities,” he said while urging the government to quell propaganda on social media that “coronavirus does not exist in Pakistan.”
There are 746 hospitals with COVID-19 facilities and 4,918 patients admitted in them across the country, according to the official data.
“We have been further extending our health facilities to deal with the pressure,” Shah of the health ministry said. “Our hospitals are fully equipped and coping with the need.”