In a bid to save one of Qatar’s leading international schools from possible closure, a petition signed by more than 600 parents and supporters was delivered today to the Supreme Education Council (SEC) and the school’s landlord.
Last month, ACS Doha International School told its parents, teachers and pupils that it was in “protracted” negotiations with landlord Ezdan Holding Group to renew the lease on its campus in Al Gharafa.
While the school management previously said it was hopeful of a positive outcome, parents fear that if the talks are not successful, their children could be left without a school. This would prompt some families to leave Qatar.
There are nearly 1,000 pupils and 150 staff at the school, of 60 different nationalities.
One of the parents who set up the online petition is Hasna Nada, a Qatari who has three children at the school, in Grade 4, Grade 1 and Pre-Kindergarten 4.
She told Doha News that she was driven to action in a bid to save the school and to secure the education of the 940 pupils there.
“There was a lot of anxiety from parents and teachers when we heard of the problems the school was facing with its lease. Everyone was upset, as it’s too late now to apply for places in most of the other schools in Doha,” she said, continuing:
“We wanted to do something positive to help the school. We are appealing to the SEC and to Ezdan to find a quick solution to the problem. We are saying to the SEC – please help us. If the lease on this site cannot be renegotiated, please help us to find another site or building.
And to Ezdan, we would ask them to see all the great things this school has achieved. Help us to continue doing them. This situation is damaging to our children’s education.”
On the website, the petition states: “ACS Doha has been a positive contributor to the education landscape in Doha … We call for a resolution to this issue and implore the SEC and government entities to aid us in ensuring the continuity in our children’s education.”
It is understood that some parents are appealing to their employers to get involved in the campaign to support the school. Meanwhile, missions including the British Embassy in Qatar have also reportedly been approached for assistance.
Nada said the aim of the petition was to turn some of the initial anger of parents into positive action:
“If the authorities allow the school to close, about 1,000 children will be left with no school – expats and Qataris. A lot of parents are considering leaving Qatar because of this. It is desperate times.
But I am Qatari, my husband is Qatari. We have no option to leave. This is our home. I just hope that all this will be resolved.”
American expat Aliya Qutub has three children at the school, in Grades 2, 4 and 5, and was a co-founder of the petition.
“We wanted to mobilize parents and staff and give them a voice – to show that we all stand behind the school,” she told Doha News.
“Also, this is not just about one school in one area – if it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone.”
Appealing to the SEC to provide “ongoing support” to the school, she added: “We are well established. We hope this will bear weight in the dialogue.”
She said that the petition had been delivered today to the Private Schools Office of the SEC, and also to Ezdan, and they are awaiting responses.
Qatar’s ongoing population boom has put a crunch on its essential services, and parents say finding school places is becoming increasingly difficult as the most popular schools have long waiting lists.
Headteachers have for some time reported that demand has affected local firms’ recruiting abilities.
Speaking previously to Doha News, Andy Yeoman – the headmaster of Doha English Speaking School – said: “Companies carrying out big projects here are struggling to recruit people with young families. I meet with CEOs every week, wanting to get people into the country, and they won’t come without a school place for their child.”