Are expensive nurseries crucial for children in the UAE?

Parents divided over the issue

Sending toddlers to a nursery is proving to be crunching many household budgets, forcing families to keep them at home instead.

“The fees for Kindergarten in the American School (ranges between) Dh45,000 and Dh65,000. That is more than what I paid for my college! Not sure how I will manage it,” wrote an expat on an online forum.

Nursery fees are calculated based on the number of days a child attends class. “Our fees are calculated depending on how often they attend the nursery. It could be anywhere between three times a week to five,” informed an attendant at a popular British nursery.

The nurseries that are located towards Jumeriah are more popular and hence pinch the pocket more. “A top British nursery in Al Safa charges Dh10,000 for five days (per term), with their classes clocked between 7.30am to 12.30pm. And, if you want to keep them till 3pm, they charge Dh12,250,” reported a parent.

With each term consisting of three months, the basic fee can be easily broken down to Dh3,333 per month. This means that even a nanny would come cheaper, with the minimum spending at Dh1,500 for a well-trained one.

It’s this huge division in numbers that’s encouraging many parents to keep their kids at home.

“Our nanny is extremely good with my son and she has already taught him numbers, shapes, alphabets and animals. This way, he’s at home, away from infections and it fits within our budget,” reasoned a mother of a two-year-old. “And his interactions with other kids are good, so I don’t find any reason to send him to a nursery.”

This school of thought believe that splurging on nurseries is unnecessary. “It’s just playtime with other kids, it’s not like they are being taught anything. So, spending so much money for them to play with other kids is pointless,” elaborated Ritika Khanna. “I’d rather send my son to the play area in our building. There are a lot of kids and my son enjoys playing with them.”

Also, parents have to shell more money if they want to keep their children for longer hours or till their office hours ends. “Most nurseries charge extra for the additional hours, adding to the already expensive fee,” added Mithun, father of a one-year-old girl.

Often the decision to send kids to nurseries is more out of necessity than choice. With many double-income households in Dubai, it’s tough for many to find a trustworthy nanny.

“Since my husband and I work long hours, we decided to send our daughter to a nursery. And, it has worked out perfectly for us. She is a lot more interactive and has started speaking well. I doubt she would have turned out so well if we had left her at home with a nanny,” insisted Linda, mother of an 18-month-old.

The fees, many argued, are because of the individual attention the toddlers need. “Most kids are not potty-trained and the nursery will have to hire extra help to tackle the problem. Also, they invest a lot of care and effort in taking care of each child. It’s a lot of work,” added mother of two girls, Sheila.

Nadia, a mother of a 24-month-old, claimed it is important to send your child to a nursery. “They learn so much and it helps to develop their personality. It also prepares them for school.”

In fact, it is interesting to note that some nurseries are actually more expensive than top Asian schools in the city. And, this when nurseries remain opened for just a few hours in the morning while the schools function for the entire day.

“I pay an annual fee of Dh26,000 for my daughter’s nursery while my older son’s school fee at Dubai Public School is only Dh9,326. She spends only a few hours there, while he spends an entire day in school,” contrasted an Indian parent.

While parents remain divided on the perks of nursery education or the lack of it, educationists insist it boils down to personal choice. “There’s no concrete evidence that shows that children who didn’t attend nurseries didn’t fare well in school,” informed an expert.

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