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 schools resume regular classes after drop in COVID-19 cases 

Updated 01 March 2021

Pakistan’s schools resume regular classes after drop in COVID-19 cases 

  • Use of face masks, social distancing and other anti-virus measures still applicable, officials say
  • Nearly 1,400 new cases reported on Monday compared to a peak of over 6,800 cases in June last year 

ISLAMABAD: Schools across Pakistan resumed regular classes for five days a week starting from Monday after the country of 220 million witnessed a decline in COVID-19 infections and deaths in recent weeks.
Announcing the move in a tweet on Feb. 26, the education ministry said: “All schools will go back to regular classes from 1st March.”
It also reiterated that the use of face masks, social distancing measures and hand washing techniques would continue to be applicable.

In March last year, Pakistan had shut down all educational institutions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 disease.
However, citing a drop in the daily cases of coronavirus, authorities decided to reopen the schools in a phased manner a few months later.
Pakistan has reported a similar trend in recent weeks, with 1,392 new infections recorded on Monday compared to a peak of more than 6,800 daily cases in June last year.
As of Monday, the total tally stood at 581,365 cases of the coronavirus, with 12,896 deaths recorded.
Last week, Pakistan relaxed its time limits for amusement parks and commercial activities and allowed offices to resume work with 50 percent staff capacity.
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, said last week that cinemas and shrines would be allowed to reopen from March 15 as well, as long the anti-coronavirus checks are in place.
“Wearing of mask, social distancing, smart lockdowns will continue and will be ensured,” the NCOC said on Feb. 24.

In another winning chase, Afridi, Wiese lead Lahore to victory

Updated 01 March 2021

In another winning chase, Afridi, Wiese lead Lahore to victory

  • Karachi had a sniff of victory when Lahore required 30 off the last two overs 
  • The win pushed Lahore to the top of the points table alongside Peshawar Zalmi 

KARACHI: Shaheen Afridi’s ferocious pace and David Wiese’s late charge spurred Lahore Qalandars to a six-wicket win over defending champion Karachi Kings in the Pakistan Super League on Sunday.
Afridi returned figures of 3-27, with his bowling reaching speeds of 94 mph (around 150 kph). That helped to restrict Karachi to 186-9 despite half centuries by Sharjeel Khan (64) and Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi (57).
Wiese’s blistering 31 not out off nine balls carried Lahore to 189-4 in 19.2 overs in reply as the tall South African clubbed two successive sixes against Australian fast bowler Daniel Christian to finish off the game.
Karachi had a sniff of victory when Lahore required 30 off the last two overs. But Mohammad Amir’s 19th over went for 20 with Wiese getting two fortunate edges to the boundary and then lofting the fast bowler over long off for a six.
“To be honest, I always felt we were in with a shout in that situation,” Wiese said.
“Sometimes you smash it straight to the fielder, so those little nicks count. We’ve seen toward the back end it’s difficult to defend here with one short boundary.”
Fakhar Zaman scored a brilliant 83 off 54 balls and Ben Dunk remained unbeaten on 57 after Lahore had slipped to 0-2 in the first over and then also lost key batsman Mohammad Hafeez for 15 inside the batting powerplay.
Both left-handers shared a 119-run stand before Zaman holed out in the deep in the 18th over. But Wiese’s late onslaught carried the team home.
Afridi could have picked up five wickets but Lahore skipper Sohail Akhtar, who won the toss and didn’t hesitate to field, dropped a sitter from Khan in the first over.
Babar Azam (5) was clean bowled by Afridi in his second over but only after Zaman failed to hold onto a sharp chance offered by Pakistan’s premier batsman, who went to cut Afridi’s short-of-length delivery.
Afridi pegged back Karachi’s hopes of going closer to 200 runs when he clean bowled Waqas Maqsood and Amir off vicious yorkers in the last over.
“They shouldn’t have chased it down, but credit goes to Fakhar and David Wiese how they played,” said Karachi captain Imad Wasim, who surprisingly did not bowl. “At the end, we should have scored 40 or 50 off the last four overs but we couldn’t because of some bad shots and runouts.”
It was the 11th straight successful chase in this season’s PSL with no team yet to defend the total after being put into bat by the opposition.
The win pushed Lahore to the top of the points table alongside Peshawar Zalmi with both teams on six points after four games. Karachi has four points. 

Pakistan keeps petrol prices unchanged despite global rate hike

Updated 28 February 2021

Pakistan keeps petrol prices unchanged despite global rate hike

  • Oil regulatory body recommended prices of petroleum products be increased to between Rs6 and Rs7 per liter
  • Suggestion rejected by Prime Minister Imran Khan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday turned down a proposal by the country’s Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) to increase prices of petroleum products, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill said in a tweet.
According to a document, also shared by Gill on his Twitter, the OGRA had recommended that the prices of petrol, high speed diesel, kerosene and light diesel be increased by various amounts between Rs6 and Rs7 per liter.
“...Prime Minister Imran Khan did not accept this proposal. There has been no increase in the prices of petroleum products. Despite the continuous rise in the prices of petroleum products in the world market, the prime minister did not allow it,” Gill tweeted.
The new prices would have been effective from March 1. Prices are generally revised every 15 days.
Earlier this month too, the regulatory authority had proposed an increase in petroleum prices but Khan turned the suggestion down. This was a break from continuous price hikes for the last five consecutive fortnights and came despite an increase in global oil prices over the last two weeks.

Malala dreams of a 'true friendship' between Pakistan and India

Updated 28 February 2021

Malala dreams of a 'true friendship' between Pakistan and India

  • Malala was speaking on the last day of during the Jaipur Literature Festival
  • For the first time in six years, the event welcomed Pakistani participants

ISLAMABAD: Nobel Prize winning activist Malala Yousafzai on Sunday said her dream was to see India and Pakistan become "true, good friends."
Ties between Pakistan and India have been shaped by a bitter rivalry and armed conflict since the partition of British-ruled India into Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India in 1947.
Malala was speaking during a session on her latest book, "We are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World," on the last day of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), which was held online this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Malala Yousafzai speaks to editor and writer Pragya Tiwari during a Jaipur Literature Festival (JIF) on Sunday, February 28, 2021. (Photo courtesy: JIF)

For the first time in six years, the literary event known as the "greatest literary show on Earth" welcomed Pakistani participants, who for its earlier editions faced difficulties in obtaining Indian visas.
"It is my dream to see India and Pakistan become true good friends," Malala said in a session moderated by New Delhi-based editor and writer Pragya Tiwari.
"You are Indian and I am Pakistani and we are completely fine, then why is this hatred created between us?"
"This old philosophy of borders, divisions and divide and conquer ... they just don’t work anymore," she said. "As humans, we all want to live in peace."
The 14th edition of the Indian literary event that normally attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to its venue in the 19th-century Diggi Palace Hotel in Jaipur, had among its speakers Douglas Stuart, the winner the 2020 Booker Prize, and prominent American social scientist and linguist Noam Chomsky.
From Pakistan, besides Malala, the JLF sessions also welcomed novelists Moni Mohsin, H.M. Naqvi, and political scientist Ishtiaq Ahmed.

UAE hails Pakistan-India border truce in Kashmir

Updated 01 March 2021

UAE hails Pakistan-India border truce in Kashmir

  • Ceasefire on Kashmir border was settled by the Indian and Pakistani militaries last week
  • UAE urges dialogue between the two South Asian nations to 'establish a lasting peace'

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday welcomed an agreement between the militaries of Pakistan and India to restore ceasefire along their disputed border in Kashmir.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between Pakistan and India as both claim the region in full but rule in part. Tensions increased in August 2019, after New Delhi withdrew the region's autonomy and split it into federally administered territories. In recent months, cross-border firing has become frequent, often killing or maiming people living in the area.

On Thursday, however, the military operations heads of nuclear-armed neighbors said in a joint statement that they had agreed to discuss each other's concerns that could disturb peace and lead to violence along the Line of Control (LoC). The announcement has been seen as restoring a ceasefire agreement from 2003.

"UAE has close historical ties with the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and that it commends the efforts of the two countries to reach this achievement," the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in a statement on Sunday.

"This is an important step towards achieving security, stability and prosperity in the region," it said, adding that "adhering to a permanent ceasefire between the two friendly countries in Kashmir to the benefit of both sides."

The UAE also urged dialogue between the two South Asian countries to "build bridges of confidence and establish a lasting peace."

On Saturday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said in series of tweets that Islamabad was ready to resolve all issues with New Delhi through dialogue.

“We have always stood for peace & remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue,” Khan said, as he also the restoration of ceasefire along the LOC.