Uncertain future stares students, teachers in EP


Saudi Gazette

A SCHOOL in Al-Khobar has been ordered closed by the Ministry of Education (Foreign schools) as it failed to comply with the ministry’s requirement for a proper premises.

The closure of Sunshine International School has put a big question mark on the fate of nearly 900 students and 120 teachers who are being punished only because of the apathy of the school management.

The school license has been suspended effective April 1.

According to sources in the ministry several other private schools in the Kingdom may face a similar fate if they do not fulfill the ministry’s specified school premises condition.

Scores of international schools in the Eastern Province are operating from villas or makeshift structure mainly consisting of pre-fabricated cabins.

The Ministry of Education has issued a guideline manual to all international schools in the Kingdom and has asked them to comply with those requirements.

Sunshine Indian School was among the unfortunate institutions that could not comply with the requirement of a proper premises.

“Safety, security and hygiene of students are of prime importance and it could not be compromised,” said a source at the ministry. All the schools including Sunshine were issued a warning some six months ago. The ministry has been exerting pressure on them to shift to appropriate places. Many schools including International Indian School, which earlier was using several villas to accommodate junior classes, soon complied with the regulations and vacated all villas and adjusted all students in the existing two campuses.

Mass exodus of expatriates due to dependent fee and several other factors came as a blessing in disguise for these schools as pressure of students overflow receded.

In the last academic session, the Sunshine International School had an effective strength of 1,850 students. But since then more than 900 students have taken transfer certificates from the school, most of them leaving Saudi Arabia for good. Even International Indian School, Pakistan International School and many other community and private schools have reported a large number of transfer certificates sought by leaving students.

The closure of Sunshine School has put the future of remaining 900 students in jeopardy. The International Indian School (IISD) came to the rescue and is now trying to admit all the students of Indian origin in the school. IISD Chairman Dr. Zainul Abideen told Saudi Gazette that the school will do all that is in its power to accommodate all students of Indian origin in the school. “It is question of the future of our children and we must rise to the occasion,” he said.

Despite this humanitarian gesture, the future of remaining 300 odd students — Egyptians, Pakistani and Bangladeshis — more than 100 teaching staff and over a dozen support staff is in dark unless other community schools accommodate them.

A general nervousness is prevailing among expatriates whose children are attending private schools. “We have no option but to put our children in private schools and leave them at the mercy of school managements who know better whether they are complying with regulations or not.

The Ministry of Education, on its part, is right in giving priority to the safety, security and hygiene of students but equally important is their future and for this it should recommend simplified regulations to own plots and buildings by private school.