Frantic parents in the Indian community are intensifying their search for a school place for their children, as limited places and approaching deadlines mean they may not succeed before the new academic year begins in April.
"My husband and I received notices from our children's school that they will be closing down in 2013 so we decided to try to find a place for them in another school for the new academic year because they are still young so it would be easier to locate a seat," said Trija Rajan, an Indian expatriate who is a homemaker and mother of two.
Her three-year-old daughter is currently enrolled in a nursery while her son, who is six years old, is in KG2.
"If we are unable to register them successfully, they will stay with their current school and we will try again next year. If we are unsuccessful then my children and I may return home as it is easier than moving outside Abu Dhabi and having my husband commute," she said.
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That sentiment was echoed by other parents who appeared in their thousands on Saturday for Abu Dhabi Indian School's lottery, after obtaining a token during the school's initial registration period last week.
During the lottery, a number is selected randomly by a child chosen among the attendees and then read out. Parents present the final documentation needed, along with a cheque for Dh500 to complete the proceedings. For the forthcoming academic year, only 200 seats across all grades were available for new pupils.
"I wasn't successful so now I have to try and approach other schools… but I am concerned, not only about the possibility of higher fees, but if she is accepted in a school that follows an O-level curriculum compared to a CBSE one, then if she goes back home to continue her studies, she will be held back by one year due to the different systems," Bijoy Pillay, an engineer whose daughter will attend KG1, said.
While Kairna T. was able to successfully register her son, she, along with other parents, expressed reservations regarding the lottery system in place across many schools.
"Having such a system is causing a lot of anxiety for parents and children alike because of the great odds that we face…schools should just be honest about the exact number of seats they have available and then register pupils on a first-come, first-served basis," the mother of two said.
V.K. Mathu, adviser to Abu Dhabi Indian School (Adis), told Gulf News the issue of limited seats is one that is prevalent across Indian schools. He also added the school had approached Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) to build a branch and that the application is in its final stages.
"This is an issue that is faced by both parents and schools alike every year… which is why schools, including us, organise lotteries… also, due to overwhelming demand for registration, the school's management decided to issue tokens to ensure that the registration process is efficient and fair," he said.
"These seats exclude those that have been set aside for current pupils whose siblings wish to register, the children of our staff members as well as those of the staff from the Indian Embassy," he added.
When asked by Gulf News regarding the persisting practice, Brian Fox, the division manager for licensing and accreditation at Adec said: "Adec is a regulator and has nothing to do with building private schools. If the school management has resorted to lotteries, it's because they are attempting to treat all parents on the same basis, so that there's no advantage or disadvantage for any parent."
"If families are moving into the area [the emirate], particularly by April, parents need to be advised that there is a lack of school spaces," he added.