In what parents are calling “a chaotic tragedy,” the Asian Integrated School (AIS) has confirmed that it will close its doors for good next month, leaving up to 200 children without a school place in the fall.
The Philippine-curriculum school in Al Messila had been on a desperate hunt to find a new site for months. The lease on its current location expired a year ago, and a year’s extension that had been granted last summer is almost up.
Parents had been warned of the school’s possible closure at the end of April during a meeting in which officials advised them to start looking for other options.
After a lengthy search, two alternative locations were identified – one on the site of the former Shafallah Center for children with special needs, and another near Dahl Al Hammam family park, close to Landmark Mall.
However, the rent on both sites would have been significantly higher than the QR88,000 a year the school pays for its site on Al Jazeera Al Arabiya Street, and AIS would have had to hike tuition fees to meet the increased costs.
The Supreme Education Council (SEC) initially rejected the school’s petition to increase tuition. AIS appealed and was in protracted discussions with the SEC, which it had understood would have given them an answer more than a week ago.
Letter to staff
However, the SEC has yet to reply, the school said.
With the current lease extension on the existing property set to expire at the end of July, the school management said it has been forced to formally write to staff to advise them that AIS would close at the end of this term.
The announcement came in a letter dated June 2 that was given to the 60 teachers and administrators yesterday, and was signed by Sheikha Eman Qubrosi, who is understood to be one of the school’s owners:
“As AIS management promised to issue an announcement not later than June 2, 2015, the SEC remains mum… Therefore AIS management has decided, with measure of great sadness, to close the school for we cannot hold on to the uncertainties of our school’s fate,” the letter states.
The school’s Parent Teacher Association (PTA) had been campaigning to try to keep AIS open, organizing petitions to the SEC and helping in the search for an alternative campus.
Its president, Joseph Rivera, told Doha News that the SEC’s silence on the issue so far had left the school with no option but to announce its closure.
He said that while many of the 506 mostly Filipino students at the school had managed to find places at others schools, around 160 children of lower-income families could be left without formal education in Qatar:
“These are the children of parents who just can’t afford the fees of the other international schools here. They will either be home schooled, or some of them will go back to the Philippines to go to school there, which will break up their families. They are very sad and frustrated about the situation,” Rivera added.
It is understood that parents have not yet officially received a letter of closure from the school, though Rivera advised them of the letter to the staff in a post yesterday on PTA’s Facebook page:
“God knows that we did everything we could, even way beyond our level best, so as not to disrupt and displace the regular schooling of our children. And though we were all determined to move mountains if needed, some obstacles along the way simply couldn’t be moved due to unfortunate circumstances way beyond the PTA’s control.
Our level of frustration is unimaginable and though the PTA BOD may be divided in opinion, a majority of us have reason to believe that that the great lack of compassion, absence of political will, disregard of education ethics and ignorance of any sense of urgency by those responsible for this chaotic tragedy have caused us this misery.”
Rivera added that he maintains a “flicker of hope” that the SEC could still approve the school’s continued operations with increased fees, but added he ultimately suspected closure was “inevitable.”