Muscat: Afternoon shifts at Indian schools in Oman might soon become a thing of the past, according to the chairman of the Board of Directors of Indian Schools in Oman.
“The Al Awabi School is coming up in Al Ansab, which can accommodate 4,000 children. It will be opened in April 2019. With that we will eliminate the need for afternoon shifts,” said Wilson George.
Currently, more than 46,000 students study in Indian schools across the city, and every year the board receives 5,000 new admission applications.
“The number of students coming into our system increased in recent years. But the infrastructure wasn’t expanding at the same level,” he noted.
Since the Indian School Board has committed to accommodating all students who apply to the Indian schools, they had to begin afternoon shifts.
“We had to go to the shift system to accommodate the children, hence, the afternoon shift.”
The afternoon shift was created for those students studying in kindergarten to class 5. Four schools in Oman, including Indian School Muscat, Indian School Darsait, Indian School Mabela, and Indian School Wadi Kabir, offered afternoon shifts to accommodate more students.
As parents, students, and teachers were not happy with the shift system, the board took up the matter. There are three school projects being considered, which will accommodate a large number of students, thus completely eliminating the need for afternoon shifts.
The school in Al Ansab is almost ready, the other school opening in Saham has the building and furniture ready, and is only awaiting approval from the Ministry of Education. For the 46,000 Indian students studying in Oman, there are 2,000 teachers supporting them.
“In the last four years we have come up with a human resource manual to recruit teachers. Every teacher has to be approved by the Ministry of Education in Oman,” stressed Wilson.
The board also created a teachers’ forum to address their needs and grievances. “One of the biggest challenges faced by teachers is the growth in the system. There weren’t enough opportunities for their growth.”
He added, “We have addressed the problem of growth opportunities in the last few years.
“Another challenge is that the cost of living has increased, but salaries of teachers haven’t increased proportionately. So we have, along with the human resource manual, an annexure that is almost finalised with regards to salaries and benefits. This will bring along consistency and parity across the teachers.”
Growth of the institution
The chairman has served two terms, which is four years on the board, and has contributed significantly to the growth of the institution. One of his biggest achievements was the safe school transport system.
“We managed to implement it in five of our schools. We have around 3,500 children utilising it,” he said.
“We introduced safety audits in the schools. There are HSE clubs in the school to teach safety in the school, on the roads etc. We allow only 30 children on a bus; they have to put on safety belts, there are cameras in the buses, we have IVMS that allows us to monitor the driver’s behaviour, and we have an attendant on the buses,” he added.
“We have seen the results. We are seeing happy faces of parents and not worried faces,” he said.
The parents of Indian Schools, however, welcomed the idea of abolishing the afternoon shifts at Indian schools.
“None of the parents are interested in the afternoon shifts. They go for it if there are no choices available in the morning shifts,” said S Venkatesh, whose two children studies in Indian School.
“Besides that the timings are also not convenient in summer months for the children as they have to attend school in between 1 pm and 5 pm,” Sudha, another parent said of Indian School Muscat said.
Four schools in Oman, including Indian School Muscat, Indian School Darsait, Indian School Mabela, and Indian School Wadi Kabir, started the afternoon shift a few years back to accommodate more students.
Around 3,000 students study in these afternoon shifts. “It would be great if they can be accommodated in morning shift from this year,” the parents said.