Back-to-school costs bite parents in UAE
SEP-2012 – The math gets tougher for parents preparing children for new academic year Year after year, a steady increase in schooling expenses has become evident around the UAE. The cost escalation, whether due to revised tuition fees or other contributing factors like bus fees or costs of stationery, uniforms and textbooks, invariably adds to the financial burden on parents. New expenses such as fees for extracurricular activities and, in some cases, even computing equipment like iPads is also catching many unawares. The big majority of parents interviewed by Gulf News say its a rather costly affair preparing their children for the new academic year. Ahmad, 44, a manager from India who has two school-going children was particularly peeved about the additional costs. “At present, I pay nearly Dh10,000 for each child’s tuition in addition to transport and books at the start of the academic year in April. But then there are fees for every extracurricular activity they wish to participate in, and I cannot refuse all of them,” he said. “Currently, these expenses take up an additional Dh2,000 per child, and my friends with older children also tell me that these charges increase exponentially from Grade 8 onwards. For a parent, this is unfair as the cost of education ends up being much higher than it actually is,” he added. Ahmad whose children are enrolled at a private school following an Indian curriculum, said he had paid at least 25 per cent more this year just to purchase stationery such as pencils, notebooks and schoolbags before the start of the school trimester. “My children are still young now, with my older child in just Grade 6. I shudder to think how expensive their education will get in just a few years’ time,” he said. Some parents think that the increase in price is unjustified because they do not feel that they are getting their money’s worth in terms of education. Mother of three Sara (not her real name), told Gulf News that she has already taken one of her children out of a private school that is based in Sharjah because she did not really know where the extra money that they kept on demanding was going. “They kept on asking me to pay an extra Dh300 on this and that, but I did not feel that it was going where they said it was going, I basically felt that they were ripping me off so I took my child out of the school and filed a complaint against them. Sara however said she had not faced any such issue with the school her other child was attending in Sharjah. “They were upfront with me from the beginning” she said. “I pay the tuition fee that includes the book fee and uniform [costs], that is it; they never asked me for extra money after the initial instalment.” Ihsan Khan, 35, a parent from Pakistan also voiced concern about the amount of money he was forced to spend and if it was actually worth it. “Last year, I shelled out nearly Dh100,000 for my three children and each year these fees, which include tuition, cost of books and additional fees for extracurricular activities, keep increasing. Education is not something one can compromise upon, and yet I feel that the quality of education my children are receiving is not worth the expense,” he said. Khan’s children are studying at a private school that offers the British curriculum. Although he is able to pay their fees with his earnings as the owner of an Abu Dhabi construction firm, he says he is still considering sending his family back home to Pakistan. “I am able to afford the steep costs till now, but I don’t believe my children receive valuable education as a result,” he said. Additionally, Khan said he paid over Dh10,000 last year for stationery like books, schoolbags, pencil cases and other miscellaneous items throughout the school year. Advance payments that some of the school are demanding were among concerns raised with Gulf News by some parents. Saeed Ali, who has two children studying in a private school in Dubai, complained that he had been required to pay the whole year’s fee in only 3 instalments. “In the middle of May, I paid 50 per cent of the total school fees, about Dh22,000 for both children. Twenty-five per cent will be paid at the beginning of September while the other 25 per cent remains to be paid in next December.” Ali said that he wonders if these increases actually go towards providing better services as the school claims because he does not see any tangible improvement in their services. “I’m not convinced with these advanced fee payments,” he added. Mohammad Yousuf, who has two children studying in a private school, also sought to focus on extra costs. “I have paid 50 per cent of the total sum in mid-May, about Dh40,000 for both children, while the remaining 50 per cent will be paid at the beginning of this new school year. This does not even include the transport fees, uniforms or even books,” he said adding that the school had asked parents to purchase computers for their children as a mandatory requirement. Yousuf said school fees imposed a serious burden on him even though he appreciated the fact that education is one of the necessities of life for his children.
Saturday, March 2, 2013