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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Filipino parents in Qatar despair over imminent closure of school

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Asian Integrated School
Asian Integrated School

Parents of children attending a Philippine-curriculum school in Doha have spoken of their “desperate situation” after being told last week that the school is likely closing soon.

Last month, the Asian Integrated School (AIS) in Al Messila held a meeting for parents saying that the school would likely shut down at the end of the term in June. Officials also advised them to look for alternative schooling options for their children.

Some 506 students currently attend the school, 450 of which are Filipino. AIS has been operating since 2011 with kindergarten and primary-level classes.

The school had a three-year contract on its existing site on Al Jazeera Al Arabiya Street, which expired a year ago. It had been given an extension on the lease to remain open for an additional year while looking for another suitable campus.

pupils at AIS
Students at AIS

However, petitions to relocate the campus to some 40 different locations were apparently rejected by the Supreme Education Council (SEC), the president of the Parent Teacher Association told Doha News.

Just last month, the school found a potentially suitable site in Duhail, planning to take over the facilities of the former site of the Shafallah Center for children with special needs.

Parents were initially relieved to hear that a site had been found, but the rent for the new campus is more than four times the school’s current rent – around QR400,000 a month, compared to QR88,000 at the Al Messila site.

To make up the shortfall, the school applied to the SEC for a 50 percent increase in its QR10,000-a-year fees, which was rejected.

Only then did the school inform parents that the move was contingent on getting approval for a fee increase, PTA President Joseph Rivera said.

Fees hike rejected

He added all parents were called into a meeting at the school a week ago, during which authorities told them that an application to raise fees had been denied and that, without the additional income, the school could not afford the new campus.

“The vast majority of parents had no idea that there was such a problem at the school. They thought it was just a case of finding a new location. Parents were angry at being told such important news so late,” Rivera said.

The school appealed the SEC’s decision, and a lobby group of around a dozen parents produced a petition with almost 200 signatures during a meeting with SEC officials last week.

However, the school’s appeal was rejected. Rivera said the parents were told by an SEC representative that the authority didn’t believe the school would lose money by moving site.

School advice

Since then, the school has issued a statement to all parents on its website, advising them to look for places elsewhere:

“As we are aware that the school has been toiling all efforts to secure a new campus since last year, we have been met with tremendous physical, logistical, and legal obstacles not withstanding financial consideration for both the school administration and the parents.

… We are left with no choice and of deep regret to advice all parents to start securing places for transfer of our students to other schools given our present circumstances which deems the school at this time as incapacitated to insure to continued operations beyond the current school year.”

Rivera said that parents are angry at not being told about the potential situation earlier in the school year, when registration for other schools were still open.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Those schools which do still have slots are considerably more expensive than AIS, he added.

“I am lucky, I have managed to get my two boys assessed for another school which has availability. But the fees are 150 percent of what we are currently paying. I might have to take out a loan to cover the extra costs,” Rivera said.

However, he added that other parents are not able to afford higher fees and are faced with the prospect of breaking up their families, sending their children back to the Philippines to be educated there.

“We are people of humble means. We cannot afford the expensive international schools. It is a desperately sad situation. Around 10 percent of parents will be forced to send their children back home to go to school. Their families will be separated. They feel helpless,” Rivera added.

Embassy help

He said that the Philippine Embassy has agreed to try to help parents find places in the two existing Philippine schools in Qatar, Philippine International School of Qatar and Philippine School Doha. However, the schools are already operating at capacity.

One option being explored by authorities is to run temporary afternoon classes at the schools for the extra children, Rivera said, though this has not been confirmed by the schools or the SEC.

The school did not respond to requests by Doha News for a comment.

This is the second school in Doha this year to have faced closure.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.
Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In February, parents of ACS Doha International School petitioned their landlord Ezdan Holdings and the SEC after they were told the school would close in June if they failed to renegotiate a lease.

However, the following month the school announced that it had signed a four-year deal with the landlord.

SEC rules

AIS’s imminent closure comes amid an ongoing crunch in private school places across Qatar. Additionally, the SEC has tightened some regulations on schools.

In January last year, the council ordered that there must be no more than 30 children in a class, prompting some schools, including the Philippine School Doha, to close their admissions for September 2014, saying that they had reached their capacity.

For illustrative purposes only
For illustrative purposes only

The SEC has also made it harder for schools to hike fees. Last fall, the authority confirmed that it had hired international consulting company PWC to review private school requests for fee increases, in response to parent’s complaints about rising tuition costs.

It also put in place a new five-point system for assessing schools’ application to raise fees. In 2013, the SEC refused all but a handful of school’s application to increase tuition costs.

Has your family been affected by AIS’s upcoming closure? Thoughts?

61 COMMENTS

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The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago

If Qatar wanted to solve this problem they could do it at a stroke. Is it possible that there is a message being sent out here to deter expats from bringing their families?

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

It is not Qatar’s problem. Qatar cannot build a school for every curriculum and every nationality here. This falls under the remit of embassies. In this case, the Filipino community has to turn to their ambassador and request assistance. The intervention of the embassy can also facilitate many things since it gives a diplomatic aspect to the issue.

Justsaying
Justsaying
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Staying on the subject of this article as you insisting, total number of local and expatriate children currently living in Qatar is around 300k. The expat children included are of approx 30% of the expat population of Qatar, who’s salaries allow them to bring their families. Children and families of approx. 70% of labor population are back home. Most of those expats with children working here have accepted their jobs based on the fact that they pass criteria for family status and therefore place for their children at school comes as their right in the package with all other benefits. This makes the value of your argument that they have to go home if they don’t like it “0”. They had places at school and now they may be taken away. The families made their life changing choices when coming here in the first place and have to be given an opportunity to make this choice now and not have it made for them. They also may have much more love in their life and want to see their children every day growing in front of them. Family (not sure about tribe) is the fundamental unit of the society and everything we do is for our families whether it is in our own country or here . This situation with school rent has to be fixed by the empowered and no its not embassy who is able to fix this. And no, it is not business these are human lives.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago
Reply to  Justsaying

“these are human lives” – Not for some commentators here, though.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Justsaying

All what you have said is absolutely wrong:
1- When I came here I joined a government institution. My salary allowed me to bring my family but I wasn’t married then. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in my contract that says that my employer or Qatar are responsible for the schooling of my kids. We were hundreds of expats under the same contract, and those who were married did not bring their families with them until they found a job for their wives. It took some of them 9 months and a year to do so. Many of them also are childless, and others are young couples who will probably move out of this country by the time their babies start going to school. And yes, absolutely nothing in the contract says I have an education allowance or an agreement with a particular school for my kids or anything similar.
2- Our embassy is taking care of our community school. It oversees the curriculum, and elected body of parents and teachers manages the day to day activities. When we had an issue with the rent and a lot of debts, the ambassador raised the issue to our government and our government spoke to the Qatari government. The response was a new shiny modern building offered for free by the Father Emir to our community school. You see what diplomacy does? Qatar is already very generous, and regularly bashing and asking for more from some expats is so vile and mean.
Now that your ambassador doesn’t care about the community is not Qatar’s problem. So rather than sitting here and bashing Qatar, why don’t you go to your ambassador and tell him to do his job properly?
3- The only people who can claim they came here because they were guaranteed schooling for their are those who work in big companies and who have it written in their contract. For those people their companies have to either give them the allowance or secure a place in some schools. However, their companies are not responsible for rent issues that some schools are facing. If this means no more school for kids, it is unfortunate but it is beyond their control.

Justsaying
Justsaying
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

You are missing the point here and tangled in your arguments…
Subject of the conversation are families that brought children and had spaces at school thererefore they shouldn’t have school places taken away from them…

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

“give them the allowance.” So, what are you going to do with the allowance if the school is not available?

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

The allowance is not tied to a particular school. Of one closes take your kids to another 🙂

The Reporter
The Reporter
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Can’t agree with that Yacine. Qatar invites and accepts expats on a accompanied basis – it therefore has a duty to provide suitable education.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

Sorry, for my community it is the embassy that oversaw the building of the school. We never asked Qatar to build a school for us. I think it must be the same for every embassy. Also, as far as I know, France, the UK and other countries do not have a Qatari school, a Saudi school or a Sudanese school. Why are we blaming Qatar then?

Justsaying
Justsaying
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

All the children regardless of their nationality will get a place either at private school or free public schools if they legally residing in the UK.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Justsaying

It is the same here. You are most welcome to send your kids to Qatari schools. It is automatic for those who work in the government and many non-government institutions. For other institutions, submit a request and you will most likely be accepted.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

This is not true. Government schools are for citizens as per the Constitution of Qatar. It’s not normal that you get a place there if you are not a Qatari. You probably need Wasta or more clearly: you’ve gotta use the corruption method.

Article 49
All citizens have the right to education; and the State shall endeavor to make general education compulsory and free of charge in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations of the State.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago

Actually no; if you are employed in the government sector, then your children can go there. It’s been this way forever.

Desert Witch
Desert Witch
6 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

It is correct that anyone working for the government can send their child to local schools. But I believe that has only recently been implemented. It was not always the case. Or if it was the case, then it was not made known to non Qatari government workers.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed

Article 49 guarantees it for Qataris, it doesn’t exclude others.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago

Others are not ‘citizens’. When the constitution talks about people living in Qatar they use the phrase “all persons” (Article 35, for example), which, by the way, is a very funny expression, since the plural of ‘person’ is ‘people’ in English.

Restie
Restie
6 years ago

‘Persons’ is also an acceptable plural in English and is used extensively in legal documents.

‘Persons of interest’ and ‘missing persons’ are common phrases in the English language

Also, the article in the Constitution doesn’t exude others through omission, it only guarantees it for the subjects in question, citizens.

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
6 years ago

You don’t need corruption or wasta to get into the public schools after some recent changes. There was an article in Doha News on the same as well.

But let’s face the truth, no non-arab expat really wants to send their child to the public school system here.

If Qatar is able to provide the facilities for the expat community they will automatically attract a higher quality. If not, they will have to either offer higher pay , or make do with lower quality workforce.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  The Reporter

This is a failure on the part of the SEC, not Qatar as country.

The SEC has also failed Qataris in many other areas, such as the restriction on which foreign universities’ programs and certificates they recognize and in what fields. Then you have the whole “independent schools” mess.

Were these messages being sent to Qataris? Saying what; don’t get your university from abroad, and send your children to private schools for good education?!

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago

While it is sad to see this kind of things happening, people need to understand that being able to bring one’s family here is a luxury rather than a right. You and only you are hired for the job and not all your tribe, especially if you are here for a two or three-year contract. It is much easier and financially better for all parties if your kids stay with their mom and carry on their studies at home rather than bring them here to a different environment that might not be very suitable to them.

This obviously does not apply to families where both parents work here

MikeB-NYC
MikeB-NYC
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Wow, it must be nice to know everyone’s situation and to describe the desire of people to keep their families together and see their kids grow as a luxury. They are only working hard to build your country, why should they have their “tribe” there. At least this is an honest expression of how Qataris view their guests.

A_qtr
A_qtr
6 years ago
Reply to  MikeB-NYC

Oh wow every expat reading a comment here which they don’t like immediately assume the person is qatari .. Very ignorant of you..

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  MikeB-NYC

First, I am not Qatari. Second, you can still see your family even if they do not live permanently here with you. You can fly back home as much as you can. You can bring them here on a visit visa. And hey, we have also internet and video chat. It is not the end of the world if you see your family from time to time for the duration of your contract. This is expat life. There are compromises and sacrifices to do, and this is one of them.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Yacine, you may or may not know, but there are certain things husbands and wives do at night that can’t be done on the Internet.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Is Qatar supposed to cater to those needs as well?

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Moral and ethical considerations aside, it is a sound business decision. A happy employee is a productive employee. Turnover is lower. Moreover, when the family is here, you spend most of your income in Qatar, otherwise you send everything you earn overseas.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

It is a terrible business decision, because, as an employer, it means you have to pay more airline tickets and an extra premium for the healthcare. For some companies, this also means a higher education allowance. This so-called happiness you are talking about is nonsense. I see lots of singles and married people without their families here who are happy, and who are more concerned by financial matters than having their tribe here. You’d be probably happier with your family but that does not mean you will be sad and depressed without them.

al-Lalal
al-Lalal
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Can’t be bothered answering because Shabina will delete the thread tomorrow

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  al-Lalal

Albeit a bit off-topic from the story, the idea of families living in Qatar is related to school issues, and most of the discussion has been fairly civil, so I’m not deleting it.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

So it being easier and financially better is more of a priority over happiness and keeping your family together? It is not a luxury it is essential and unfortunate that not everyone has the means to bring their family.

Also (in my opinion) children grow from living abroad and interacting in an international environment.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

There is plenty of people living without their families here and I do not think they are all sad because of it. I see more people sad because of their low salaries and poor financial situation than their inability to bring their tribe here. So yes, being “better financially” is, for many at least, is more important than having all the family here. And again, there are compromises to do in life, and living far from one’s family is very common for most expats.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

It is one thing to be able to choose to have your family stay im your home country and another thing not to have thag choice. Most people I have seen here without their families do not have the choice to bring yheir families since it is under the salary limit to do that. The people that I have seen that do have their families back home have a good income and have the luxury to go back to their homecountry at least every 3 months. This is just what I have observed from my surroundings, yours may be different.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Just because someone doesnt seem sad doesn’t mean they aren’t. They are missing out on their kids growing up. Away from their partner.

You really need a piece of empathy pie because you lack empathy for others.

Daniel Schriefer
Daniel Schriefer
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Many are forced to live without their families because the laws of Qatar make it impossible. And many have no choice because their countries are ruled by morons. It’s true, it’s not Qatar’s fault alone, but it’s as much their fault as it is the fault of many governments all over the world.

Amber
Amber
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Not everyone can go back and visit their family everytime they want. It is costly for most and some jobs only allow their employees to leave once a year and some even every other year.

I have a friend whos husband is only allowed to travel every other year. She and her kids travel during the summers but her husband cannot go with them every year.

They are struggling financially but if she were to go back to her country , she wouldnt see her husband and her kids would only see their father every 2 years.

Things are not black and white.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Amber

I totally agree. Every situation is different. But I wouldn’t put the blame everytime on Qatar. Qatar is already helping many communities by offering free facilities and other administrative advantages to communities to have their own schools, but Qatar cannot do a school for every community and every curriculum. In the case of your friend, it might be that the initial offer for her husband was not that great, but they made the choice to accept it. Again, this is fine and not everyone can get the salary they want. This is the kind of compromises that I was talking about and it applies to all aspects of expat life.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  MikeB-NYC

I agreed with you until you made the assumption that he is Qatari based on his comment. Seems like you also think that you know everyone’s situation.

Yousef
Yousef
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

YOU are BIGOT Yacine…..how dare you say its okay to BREAK a family apart….maybe you need to break your own family apart and see and feel what that is like.
a CHILD NEEDS 2 PARENTS not just one !!

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Yousef

Go home then. Simple. Keeping your family or breaking it is not Qatar’s problem.

A. M.
A. M.
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Do you read what you write or does it just flow off the top of your head? Atleast provide some evidence when you speak and make such statements. People have personal choices. If a company can provide travel and education allowances then that is a favorable employer. Are you aware there are many people in Qatar who have been here for decades? How difficult is it for families to be apart for decades? I for one cannot imagine staying away from my family for more than a month and thanks to my employer and the benevolent state of Qatar we are living a comfortable life here while contributing to the well being of the State and it’s people.

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=14273932624913596495&hl=en&as_sdt=2005&sciodt=0,5

http://www.jstor.org/stable/154179

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  A. M.

Did you read what I wrote or you just have a prepared answer to copy and paste?
I have clearly mentioned that I am talking about people with a limited duration contract (1, 2, 3 years). If you are planning to stay here for decades then it makes sense to live with your family. The same applies to families where both parents work. I mentioned this also in my comment.
Next time make sure you read properly before commenting.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  A. M.

I think most of what he says comes out of another orifice of his body.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

Wow very classy of you!

Kitos
Kitos
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Qatar will go down without the forces that keeps the whole country together and those are the expats including those of with family. If a company cannot sustain the well being of an employee to which a family benifits has to be included then the company should not hire intelligent but pushover employees like you Yacine. If you cannot dictate nor command what you want in your company then your nothing but a coward or maybe because you know you are not ligeble because i can tell by the bitterness of your answer that you were not granted of the priviledge and that of a family. I feel sad for you. Life is short be happy do not be an obstraction.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Kitos

Lol. Don’t worry Qatar will definitely not go down without you and you are more than welcome to leave 🙂

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

If we all do then it definitely does.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

There will always be sane people who understand that there are compromises to do in life especially when you are an expat. But people like you are not needed. Good riddance.

Kitos
Kitos
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Yes for people like you who has no option because you have nothing to bargain with just eat bitter melon and sob in your room savor the aloneness of a coward like you Yacine.

desertCard
desertCard
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

Well since you don’t make those decisions for us I’ll not worry about your comment. Your ideas on THIS topic are almost orwellian. You obviously have no clue.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  desertCard

All your comments in this article are useless. Please spare us your futility.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago
Reply to  Kitos

There is no need to get personal and resort to calling him a coward because he has a different opinion than yours.

And by the way, there are plenty of people who can not dictate or command what they want in a company, they aren’t cowards. Some don’t have the luxury to choose jobs as desperation and survival are the reasons for their decisions. We weren’t all dealt with the same cards in life.

Janet
Janet
6 years ago
Reply to  Misha

Coward!

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Kitos

Deleted for attack and some of the subsequent thread.

Big Sumo
Big Sumo
6 years ago
Reply to  Yacine

That’s what I said to the Qatari taxi driver who immigrated to NZ. He drove me home, on my annual trip back to NZ last January. He was driving a taxi! I said my friend, I cannot believe this, I am white NZ person and you Qatari driving a taxi, he showed me his ID! Ah the special numbers which make his ID number, we compared and laughed, my Qatar ID with different birth numbers, I said you are lucky man, free land, free uni degree, free job, free utilities, free loan, what on earth are you doing driving me from Wellington airport?? Go home I said!! I hate that country he says, I bring my family here, this is freedom. No longer Qatars problem, along with the thousands of other Qatari who live overseas. Yacine, you do a good job representing the soulless. Many countries, do their best to keep families and people together, because that’s the right thing to do. You might think keeping young men away from wives, families, female attention here for decades without affection is simple and doesn’t mean anything but it’s not true. What Qatar does is against human nature. Where is your compassion? You think life is a series of transactions? This is my 4th overseas expat relocation and what strikes me is the lack of compassion in this region, it’s a real dog eat dog. Go home you say, yes I will, but I have to beg on my knees first.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  Big Sumo

I think I have been clear from the start. Read before you comment please. I am only talking about expats working on specific projects that are limited in time (one, two or three years). You said you relocated 4 times so I assume you know very well that expats need to make compromises and that having your family everytime with you is not always an option. Sometimes even it is better to keep them at home for education purposes, as it is not always easy to pull kids from their school and environment and bring them to a new land. Honestly what’s all this drama about compassion? Let’s stick to the topic of the article please.

ShabinaKhatri
ShabinaKhatri
6 years ago
Reply to  Yousef

Deleting for attack.

Misha
Misha
6 years ago

So any schools that open need to realize by now that they should get a 10 year lease at a minimum, the SEC should facilitate this or mandate it.

I feel so bad for these parents, they are probably going crazy with stress right now.

Princess Sarah Olan
Princess Sarah Olan
6 years ago

well im lucky that im studying in PISQ but this year some of the AIS students that i know are enrolling in PISQ i hope that i have still space to enroll for Grade Six but really, i really feels sorry for the AIS students i hope they can to our school Good Luck AIS students…

Gracie
Gracie
6 years ago

The problem is that Qatar does not offer a home for none nationals unlike most Countries where, after a prolonged stay and a few exams later, you can become a citizen. This means that Qatar has to provide schools that teach the recognized curriculum of the Country in which the expat + family will inevitably have to go back to. Qatar are looking for people to help build the Country and the least they can do is provide the necessary facilities to encourage people to stay until their contract ends. I agree that the Embassy should help but ultimately there is no reason for such high fees/rent…just plain greedy.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
6 years ago
Reply to  Gracie

“This means that Qatar has to provide schools that teach the recognized curriculum of the Country in which the expat + family will inevitably have to go back to.” Is that what it says in your, or sponsor’s, job contract? I’m not aware of any laws in nearby similar countries where it says so. How about an expat heavy country like Singapore? Or other countries where you have many expats, mostly Westerns, who work there for years, but don’t intend to stay forever?

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