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More villa schools to close in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain

Afshan Ahmed

ABU DHABI // Six more private villa schools in Abu Dhabi have been ordered to close, three in the capital and three in Al Ain, affecting about 3,250 children.

The schools will move their operations to three government buildings in Abu Dhabi, Baniyas and Al Ain from the beginning of the new academic year in September.

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The closures are part of a phased programme by Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) to shut down all schools operating in residential buildings by 2013, for health and safety reasons.

Last year 21 villa schools were closed. Among their shortcomings, the buildings were crowded and lacked basic resources and proper emergency exit routes.

This year a further 10 villa schools were warned that they faced closure. Adec officials say they took action on six – Al Ekhlass, Badr Al Kobra and Baraem Al Aqsa private schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Amal, International and Zaharat Al Madain private schools in Al Ain – because the schools posed particular health and safety issues and because there was enough spare capacity to accommodate the displaced pupils.

All six schools mostly follow the Ministry of Education curriculum.

Yousif Al Sheryani, head of the private schools and quality assurance department at Adec, said there was a surplus of 3,000 school places in Al Ain. “Parents here should not have a problem, as the fees are also within the same range.”
He said from prior experience not all parents considered the options offered by the authority. “Between 30 and 40 per cent will apply at other schools,” he said.

“It is understandable that some parents may not choose the school in Baniyas, because of its distance, but they can look for other schools.”

Dr Makarim Mobarak, headmistress of the International Private School in Al Ain, said most parents had opted to send their children to the school’s new site, the former Al Sarrooj government school near by.

“It has been a smooth transition and we are working closely with the authority to accommodate all pupils,” she said.
“Also, priority will be given to those children who were at the other schools in Al Ain that have shut down.”

Pierre Scottorn, section manager of the private school improvement department at Adec, said the council had not yet made a decision on the remaining schools warned of possible closure.

“As these schools end their academic year at a different time, those decisions will be made at a later date.”

Two government school buildings are being held in reserve to accommodate additional closures, he said.

Parents whose children attend any of the closing schools will have priority placement in the new schools until July 31, when registration will open up to other children.

Adec sent letters home with children to parents telling them how to register at the new schools. Additional information sheets can be collected from Adec’s headquarters building on Airport Road, regional offices in Khalidiya or the Ministries area in Al Ain.

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