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Abu Dhabi university students rally to help Pakistani pupils struggling to pay school fees

ABU DHABI // A group of university students in Abu Dhabi is helping Pakistani community school pupils whose families are struggling to pay for their education.

It was reported earlier this month that 175 Pakistani children had been taken out of classes because their school fees had not been paid, and were expected to miss their final exams.

The Pakistan Association Dubai said that Dh800,000 was need to pay outstanding fees owed to 17 schools across Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman.

Katie Sheng, a 19-year-old American student at New York University of Abu Dhabi, read the story in The National and shared it with her university friends on social media.

“As university students, we feel that every child should have the opportunities that we’ve been given to get an education and have agency in her or his own life,” Ms Sheng said.

“Seeing young children have this opportunity taken away from no fault of their own was an injustice that we couldn’t ignore.”

About 60 students at the university have volunteered with Ms Sheng to support the cause. They hope help the pupils with tuition and counselling as well as in other ways in cooperation with the association.

“The easiest way to approach people about this story was simply to share the article through social media,” Ms Sheng said.

“The story speaks for itself, and students were easily willing to help after hearing about these students and their families. Education is key to a good quality of life and progress within the world.”

More students every day are expressing interest in helping, which Ms Sheng said was “humbling”.

“We students have no caste, creed and boundary,” she said. “We all have one dream – a dream to educate ourselves and become beneficial to mankind.”

Guillermo Andres Schlamp, a Brazilian student at NYU Abu Dhabi who is studying electrical engineering, said students were eager to contribute.

“We are looking to help in any capacity that is needed and that we have the skills to fill,” he said. “We are hoping to talk with the Pakistani Association Dubai to hear the needs that they have.”

The university students are meeting the association next week to plan ways to help the pupils.

“We have many proposals, but we want to meet students and association officials first before giving it to a final shape,” Mr Schlamp said. “We don’t want one-time charity. We want a sustainable solution to the problem which is according to the law of the land.”

The association said it welcomed the students’ gesture, which it said reflects the “true spirit” of the Year of Giving, announced this year by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, in a “global village with people from diverse cultures and all nationalities”.

“The university students have shown that the challenge of ‘education for all’ is a universal ask and we all share the responsibility,” said Dr Faisel Ikram, secretary general of the association.

“PAD would like to invite all those who support the cause and find ways to provide a permanent solution for the community schoolchildren.”

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The National