If you are small, local business in the UAE or an employee, you would agree that the past 12 months have been the toughest in the country. While many newspaper articles, surveys and reports highlight the plight for small cafes, restaurants, bakeries and retail houses, there isn’t much spotlight on the small education institutes that have been offering much needed extra-curricular activities or academic support for children. There has been much discussion over the high fees being charged by schools, but there is no mention of the small skill development centres that are struggling to survive as they bear the brunt of parents misplaced dissatisfaction over high tuition fees charged by large schools – although our fees are on much lower scale.
Covid 19 broke down geographical boundaries in more ways than one. Online classes mushroomed, the traditional model of teaching changed. As educators we were forced to move to platforms we had not been pedagogically trained for. While bigger schools and institutions were able to handle the change, smaller institutes floundered. In the past 12 months, I have watched as many of my ‘competitors’ and partners were forced to close their doors and let go of their staff. Whichever end of the business spectrum they were, my heart has gone out to each one of them.
Most local institutes I know are founded by owners who are passionate about learning; who are deeply involved in the development of the products they offer and work wholeheartedly to engage with their students and parent community. We listen to you; we feel the struggle your child is going through and then we try to come up with customized learning solutions to suit your child, his/her learning preferences, style etc. In the words of Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur (co-founders – Of a Kind), “most independent businesses are run by people – not by boards, not by stockholders, not by algorithms. And so you get a different kind of care and quality in their product because their work is a reflection of themselves. Instead of focusing on the next market they’re expanding into or the next round of funding they’re raising, they’re focusing on the details and being the best they can be.”
Apart from being emotionally invested in our clients, we invest very heavily in ensuring that we meet all the protocols set by the relevant authorities to ensure your child’s safety – your child’s safety with our teachers, your child’s safety at our premises, your child’s safety online. We adhere to guidelines set out by multiple government bodies: the Education department, Municipality and Civil Defence – for YOUR child’s well-being.
We have licenses and permits that the UAE government has issued; we sign up for certifications and accreditations with different organizations so your child’s efforts and achievements are recognized; our instructors have police clearance certificates; (and now) PCR tests. All these cost money. Our investment is huge and begins even before our first student has enrolled. When families sign up with us, we are truly grateful for the confidence and trust they have placed in us and we work hard to live up to it. Since we don’t have hundreds of teachers on our payrolls, we ensure that each of our teaching staff is the best we can find and appoint within our given fee structures etc.
But our efforts collapse when families sign up with unlicensed operators for lessons for their children. Whether the tutor is based here or in another country, this entity has not made the kind of investments we have in their own training and development; in licenses, in acquiring certification and most importantly, in guaranteeing your child’s online safety. This is why they can afford to be cheaper.
Engaging private tutors or working with unlicensed providers are both illegal in the UAE. By hiring such teachers for your child’s learning, you are becoming complicit in an illegal activity. Such businesses are unlicensed because they want to evade their dues to the government and you are helping them to do it. Closer to home, a teacher will lose her job or a fully compliant institute will have to shut down causing further job loss and economic instability.
We know and understand that parents are reeling under the economic crises inflicted by Covid 19. We are with you in this – we are not against you or out to dent a hole in your pocket. Most licensed local institutes in the country have slashed their prices and are happy to offer discounted bundle packages for their courses.
According to Ministry of Economy, the SMEs sector represents more than 94 per cent of the total number of companies operating in the country and provide jobs for more than 86 per cent of the private sector’s workforce. In Dubai alone, SMEs make up nearly 95 per cent of all companies, employing 42 per cent of the workforce and contributing around 40 per cent to Dubai’s GDP. This is how vital small businesses, including children’s training institutes are to the economy.
Please do the right thing. Support a local business. Save a family who relies on that business.