Westiminster students appeal to Ruler of Dubai for help

Westminster students have turned to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed in their continued attempt to stop GEMS Education from closing their alma mater. GEMS had earlier announced closure of school citing financial reasons.

This is an appeal sent to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai.

To:

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,

Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,

Dear sir,

A few months ago, the community of the Westminster School, Dubai, was notified by GEMS of the closure of the school in June 2014 due to financial reasons. Parents were provided with a list of schools in which their children were to be given priority in admission subject to the availability of seats.

Needless to say, this news has upset parents and students alike. The school has served its community of 5000 for 17 years with an affordable quality education. Notwithstanding the emotional attachment of the students to a school that has offered them the best within its power and is unique in its diversity of cultures and nationalities, notwithstanding its high level of achievement as a low-cost school and its affordability that gives many middle income families the opportunity to enroll their students in a British curriculum school, and notwithstanding the damage to the credibility of the secondary education of thousands of its alumni should the school shut down, closing Westminster poses a problem far greater in severity to the several thousand parents in the community it serves.

Besides the schools listed as possible alternatives, there is nowhere else to go for the 5000 students of TWS. There are simply no other schools with the same curriculum that have any seats available, whether in primary or secondary, and those that might are accompanied by sky-high prices, being ‘premium-brand’ schools. Also among the options given are two schools that, as of yet, do not have grades Year 10 and above. So who is to answer the parents of 9th graders who have no idea where their children will give board exams?

Where are 5000 students to go? This has become a serious problem for many families; after all the education of their children is their priority and without affordable quality schools, many would be forced to leave the country or send their children away. The emotional and social problems that would cause, especially to the children, would be immense.

Despite the overwhelming size of the student body, relatively inadequate infrastructure and its subsequent rating, Westminster is the best option available to many of us for our secondary education and regardless of all the shortcomings GEMS wants to eradicate it for, in the name of providing quality education to students, we love our school and have no complaints. In fact, if anything, in the process of this closure we will only end up deprived of whatever quality education we were receiving thus far.

It was for this reason that the parents petitioned to the authorities to permit whatever justifiable increase GEMS has demanded to keep the school running. Although the almost doubled fee structure would be a financial burden to many of us, it would still be far easier to bear the brunt of it since there are next-to-none alternatives.

After a month of waiting for a favourable result from the negotiations initiated by the petition between GEMS and the authorities, we are disappointed to see that there has been no tangible progress in resolving the situation and the decision to close the school remains unchanged. Both parties have their respective reasons for not conceding, but their inability to reach a compromise together makes the parents and the students the ultimate losers in this.

In the past few months, we have all become well-versed in the workings of ‘business decisions”, necessary evils in the name of sustainability and profit on GEMS’ part, which are being used to justify the closure. But the only message we seem to get out of this is that the children and their education does not matter enough for anyone to take serious action, despite all those affected being more than willing to compromise to help eliminate the concerns that have brought the school to the situation it is in today.

Therefore, after facing closed doors from every other avenue, we now approach your Highness for your help in this matter, trusting that you have the best interest of the community at heart and would be willing to intercede on the behalf of the students at Westminster School who stand to lose so much through no fault of their own.

Sincerely,

Student community of the Westminster School, Dubai.

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