Dubai school steps in to help Syr­ian chil­dren

Safa School gives free places to two fam­i­lies who fled con­flict and can’t af­ford fees in UAE

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Sar­wat Nasir @Sar­watNasir

Seven chil­dren who es­caped the war in Syria for a set­tled life in the UAE be­gan their first day at school this week af­ter ed­u­ca­tors in Dubai read about their plight and of­fered to fund their ed­u­ca­tion.

Grin­ning with ex­cite­ment, the chil­dren from the Ibrahim and Al Mousa fam­i­lies ar­rived at Safa Bri­tish School and Safa Com­mu­nity School this week.

For some of them it was the first time in­side a class­room in two years.

Even af­ter long and dan­ger­ous jour­neys – the Ibrahim fam­ily es­caped their home as ISIS ap­proached – their par­ents feared they would not be able to at­tend school due to a lack of places at af­ford­able schools in the UAE.

Yaser Al Mousa, 14, said on his first day: “It feels amaz­ing to put on a uni­form. We re­ally thought we wouldn’t be go­ing to school.

“I thought, maybe, I could work in con­struc­tion sites to help my fam­ily fi­nan­cially if I can’t get an ed­u­ca­tion, but our prayers have been an­swered.”

Louay Khatib, one of the own­ers of the schools, said he read about the fam­i­lies’ plight in 7DAYS and felt com­pelled to help.

Khatib added: “We read the story and it re­ally both­ered us that peo­ple were suf­fer­ing.

“We are in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor and we thought we should do some­thing for them. We call our­selves a com­mu­nity school – what bet­ter way to send a mes­sage out of what a com­mu­nity re­ally means?”

7DAYS has been fol­low­ing the plight of the fam­i­lies, re­port­ing on how they fled the war and later made it to Shar­jah.

I t’s 5.30am in the Al Mousa house­hold and four ex­cited chil­dren are don­ning their uni­forms for the first time in 18 months. Be­cause to­day they will head to Safa Com­mu­nity School and the pri­mary-ed­u­ca­tion Safa Bri­tish School from their home in Shar­jah.

There is an en­ergy in their house and spir­its are high – in stark con­trast to when 7DAYS vis­ited three weeks ago.

Then, the chil­dren feared they would never re­turn to school, af­ter their par­ents found it would be im­pos­si­ble to af­ford the fees charged even by char­ity schools.

It’s been a long jour­ney from their war-torn vil­lage in Syria, which they were forced to flee when ISIS forces be­gan ap­proach­ing.

Mo­hammed Yaser Al Mousa, 14, Mo­hammed Noor Al Mousa 11, Mo­hammed Azhari Al Mousa, 16, and six-year-old Li­las Al Mousa, are go­ing to school again.

Yaser, whose fa­ther works for a con­struc­tion com­pany and earns Dhs8,000 per month, says: “It feels amaz­ing to put on a uni­form.

“We re­ally thought we wouldn’t be go­ing to school any­time soon.

“I thought, maybe, I could work in con­struc­tion sites to help my fam­ily fi­nan­cially if I can’t get an ed­u­ca­tion, but our prayers have been an­swered.”

He added: “To­day, I am go­ing to school, to­mor­row I will go to univer­sity and soon I will be back in Syria to re­build my coun­try.”

Yaser’s fa­ther, Ali Al Mousa, adds: “It feels like a mir­a­cle. A few days ago, we had no hope, now we are full of pos­i­tiv­ity and look­ing to­wards a brighter fu­ture for my fam­ily.

“I had re­ceived a call from some­one at the school who told us that we don’t have to worry about pay­ing a sin­gle dirham.

“Ev­ery­thing has been cov­ered so far – the tu­ition fees, the uni­forms and the books.”

In nearby Ajman, an­other Syr­ian fam­ily, the Ibrahims, are also get­ting ready.

Has­san Ibrahim and three of his chil­dren are also re­ceiv­ing free ed­u­ca­tion at the same Bri­tishcur­ricu­lum schools.

His wife and Iman, 14, and Amal, nine, and sons Eman, 13, and Mo­hammed, one, were dis­placed in Syria for two years. Has­san, who was al­ready work­ing in the UAE as a con­struc­tion su­per­vi­sor, even­tu­ally man­aged to bring his fam­ily over.

An­other of his sons, 11-year-old Ibrahim, was sent on a refugee boat to Greece last year.

He has since re­ceived a free ed­u­ca­tion from the Ger­man gov­ern­ment and is do­ing well.

Their home town was taken over by ISIS and their chil­dren lost all of their doc­u­ments. They walked across the Turk­ish moun­tains to safety be­fore ten days later fly­ing to their new home in Shar­jah in Au­gust.

Has­san says he has been taken aback by the gen­eros­ity of 7DAYS read­ers and the com­mu­nity.

One nine-year-old boy of­fered his bi­cy­cle and his mother said the same fam­ily could give them free Eng­lish books if they were to be taught at home.

Sev­eral teach­ers also con­tacted the news­pa­per, of­fer­ing hours of free lessons in their spare time.

Ibrahim says he feels hum­bled and in­debted to all who have helped.

He adds: “If they didn’t get the chance to go to school, we are not sure what the fu­ture of my chil­dren would’ve been. I’m so grate­ful. Our lives have been turned around.”

‘Ev­ery­thing has been cov­ered so far – the tu­ition fees, the uni­forms and the books’ – Ali Al Mousa

HEAD­ING FOR CLASS: (From left to right) Mo­hammed Noor Al Mousa, his sis­ter Li­las (six) and broth­ers Azhari (16) and Yaser (14)

BIG DAY: Ali Al Mousa wishes his daugh­ter Li­las good luck be­fore she leaves home for school

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