GEMS Education, a UAE-based school operator, has been the target of a petition by parents to drop school fees as the coronavirus pandemic keeps schools closed and students at home.
The petition had received over 15,000 signatures as of 6 p.m. UAE-time, eclipsing its 14,000 goal.
Schools in the UAE have been closed since March 8, with a distance learning initiative in place as authorities move to combat the spread of the deadly coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. Schools are due to remain closed until the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.
“In light of the existing situation, we, parents of Gems Education Schools, appreciate the Institutions’ continuous support and back the decision of the school’s closure for the safety of its students. However, we feel that it is unjustified that Gems is demanding a full fee payment for the Third Term’s ‘Distance Learning Program’,” the petition read.
The coronavirus has triggered a widespread lockdown in the UAE, with many businesses closed to prevent the virus’s spread. Many working parents have thus been at home during times when their children would normally be at school, straining households.
“Parents have to put in more than 5-7 hours a day, assisting children to complete the daily assigned lessons, provide resources, stationary, technology, not to mention the added mental strain and pressure of working from home simultaneously,” the petition added.
What is the UAE’s distance learning initiative?
The distance learning initiative is the UAE Ministry of Education’s name for the process of students learning from home while their schools are shut due to coronavirus.
According to a statement from the ministry, parents should provide their children with “internet services, other distance education resources like computers, tablets, and smart phones.”
The ministry said that it had directed school administrations on how to launch an awareness campaign on distance education, which should assign tasks and implement interactive lessons for students working from home.
Students should be prohibited from using their devices for “distracting activities like photography and web-browsing” while studying, according to the ministry.
“Implementation of this system is prioritized by the ministry to provide an interactive e-platform for distance education for all and to overcome time and geographical barriers, and harness educational potential and advanced technologies to ease student stress,” added the statement.
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