Private school regulators in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have said schools will not have to refund fees despite closing due to the coronavirus, officials announced on Thursday.
Authorities in both the emirates said curriculums would continue as normal during the outbreak via distance learning schemes.
Earlier this week, the UAE government announced all schools and universities would close for a month from Sunday to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
However, two of those weeks will form part of the usual spring break holiday while the second fortnight will see pupils taught from home.
On Wednesday, the Department of Education and Knowledge, which regulates dozens of private schools in Abu Dhabi, said parents would not be entitled to refunds.
“During this period [of school closures], schools will continue to provide education in line with their academic plans starting from March 22,” a statement said.
“Schools have developed distance learning plans, and teachers are going to provide support to students during these two weeks.”
As of Thursday, there were more than 93,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus globally, with more than 3,000 deaths.
In the UAE, however, the number of cases continues to remain very small, with fewer than 30 people having contracted the virus.
School operator Taaleem, which runs 13 schools across the UAE, the bulk of which are in Dubai, said its fees would remain the same despite the closures.
Meanwhile, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which regulates all Dubai private schools, also said parents would not be entitled to a refund.
“Although schools will be closed, the learning will continue,” said Gavin Walford-Wright, Taaleem’s chief marketing officer.
“We will honour all our salaries for teachers and administrators across all the schools during this period.
“Teachers will be sending learning packs to every child, so although children will not be going to school, they will be doing their school work and keeping up with curriculum at home.
“Our costs remain the same even though schools will be closed.”
Keren Bobker, a columnist for The National and senior partner at Holborn Assets, a global financial services company, said she understood the frustrations of some parents given the unsettling impact of the coronavirus. But she said she did not expect any schools to provide fee refunds.
“The closures are not of the school’s choosing and they will be paying their staff as usual so the school is not making any saving,” she said.
“Many parents will incur additional costs for childcare, especially if both parents are working.
“As this will have an effect of household budgets, I would like to see schools being a little more flexible when it comes to paying fees for the next term.”
Kamal Kalwani, chief executive officer of Ambassador Education in Dubai, a private school operator, said no parent had yet requested a refund.
“We will not be refunding fees,” she said. They [parents] understand this a forced closure. Everyone is in this together and must support each other. We all have to adapt.”
Source: The National