With over 2,500 students each, Jinja Secondary School in Uganda and Olympic Primary School in Kibera, Nairobi, can definitely be described as “big” schools.
But Aziz Akhtar, who will soon
be opening a new school in Nairobi, is already in charge of one with more than three times as many pupils, Our Own English High School in Dubai.
It’s an enormous school by any standards — 8,500 students from kindergarten to the last grade of secondary, all in a single facility, taught by 350 teachers and transported to and from school by a fleet of 123 buses.
The school follows the Indian national curriculum. Over 95 per cent of students are children of Indian expatriates working in Dubai.
“Each grade has about 20 sections (streams), with 25 pupils per class in kindergarten, and about 30 per class in the higher grades,” says Mr Akhtar. “I admit, it’s a challenge to manage all these children.”
The school day at Our Own English High School runs from 7:45am to 1:40pm.
“Ninety five per cent of our children take the school bus. When the bell rings, all the children will have boarded the bus within 10 minutes,” he says.
“The school is owned by Global Education Management Systems (Gems), the world’s largest private kindergarten to year 12 operator in the world, with more than 100,000 students in its network of schools all around the world, structured in different fee-paying levels.
Now Gems is poised to open the doors of the Gems Nairobi Cambridge International School in the next few months.
The $50 million facility is still under construction, but is expected to be ready for the initial batch of 300 pupils from kindergarten to Grade 6 in September, offering a British curriculum.
The company plans to use Kenya as its initial foothold into East Africa and the wider African market.
“We offer a unique education model where we have different fees structures depending on the facilities in the school,” says Richard Forbes, director of marketing and communications at Gems.
“But the bottom line is that we are trying to make private education affordable to all.”
The new school in Karen, Nairobi, with an eventual capacity of 2,000 students is intended to ease the growing demand for quality education, from the burgeoning middle class.