Reaching new heights under the leadership of Mr. Shaik Abdul Rahiman, ICSK.

Q8india.com, The well-known news portal in Kuwait recently had the pleasure of having a chat with Mr. Shaik Abdul Rahiman, The Chairman of Indian Community School of Kuwait.  HE spoke about his journey in Kuwait and how he ended up taking charge of one of the biggest Indian Educational institutions in Kuwait.

 

Q: Q8India is glad to talk to you Sir, Before jumping into the core topics, I would like to know a brief background about you and your journey to Kuwait and to Indian Community School

A: Basically I am from Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. I have done my studies in Nellore and Chennai. I started my journey in Kuwait in 1995, I came to work for an audit firm as an auditor, worked in that firm for more than 10 years and reached the position of audit manager and later in 2006 moved to an investment company and now working as Financial Controller. On a personal front, I have a wife and two kids. Wife is a home maker and my kids studied here in Kuwait. My daughter is currently doing under graduation in Malaysia while son is in tenth standard here in Kuwait.

During the time I was in audit firm, I used to do audits for many schools Indian, International and Arabic schools. This gave me an idea of schools, their Operations and financial management. Apart from professional experience, I was following up my kids education since their LKG, which gave me reasonable understanding of CBSE school academics and administration.   I always had a vision of how a school should be managed, showing interest on that later on, I got an opportunity to manage Indian Community School in 2016 along with a team of professionals.  We started our journey from here, we empowered Principals and gave them direction. When we entered the school, it was already doing well and we focused on taking it to the next level with the support of the Principals and school staff. ICSK’s growth has been phenomenal especially during last 4 years. Without the support of our teachers, it would not have been possible to be where we are now.

 

Q; We know that for educational institutions the pandemic has been a very challenging period all over the world. It’s been no different in Kuwait as such thing was not expected by anyone. How did you tackle this pandemic situation its impact on education & children with schools shut? Tell us about your experience

A: No one expected this and it hit out of the blue. Around in February 2020, we were preparing for next academic year, and as we were getting ready, we came to know about it. Things were not clear in the beginning; schools did not function for 15 days to one month. Just prior to pandemic, we were into an expansion mode; we built a new building to accommodate additional 1,500 students in Khaitan. First, we focused on completing the academic year 2019-20 by conducting online examinations. I take this opportunity to thank our teachers the way they adapted to online education. Board Exams that were to happen in March and April were called off. Financially also it was a challenge where the building rents are high, we spoke to landlords and nobody was ready to offer any discounts and till now they didn’t give any discounts. Ministry also has come up with a 25 percent reduction in the school fee and many are thinking that this 25 percent ministry is giving to schools which is not true. Basically, we have to manage with 75 percent fee, it’s a challenging time. 

I remember how challenging March & April were and how swiftly we had to act. Since we had automation of processes done already and it helped us a lot getting into online classes, that was the biggest blessing for us. We noticed many schools where they had to start looking into how to implement online system as they didn’t have online connection or App in place. But we already had a mobile application before that and it all really helped. We are glad to say that our ERP system and Application was developed by former ICSK Students. When we were looking out for software development companies in market, these former students approached us and asked for an opportunity, we believed in them and gave full support. We spent months with them. Now there are many schools using the App developed by our former ICSK students, we are proud of them.  When we started automation and brought in School ERP system three years ago, we never planned for something like this would happen, but it was God’s plan and we were already prepared. We can proudly say we were the first school to connect online with the parents, we were the only school which didn’t see any disturbance in adapting to this unforeseen situation. 

ICSK was the first school to distribute books to all 9,000+ students in March by delivering them at their homes. This was one of the most remarkable efforts put in by ICSK during lockdown. Whatever original plan, timetable we had including summer holidays we continued without even a single date change. We closed for Summer on June 10 and resumed classes on August 23 school, exactly as planned. We just followed that without any disturbance. Everything has been very well maintained and normal, at no point our attendance was less than 95 percent and it’s been consistent at every point of time during these 10 months. We thank parents and our teachers for all the patience. Through online method you know many schools worldwide experienced problems like hackers coming into sessions and a lot of other issues. We tackled everything and sometimes now we feel managing online mode saves lot of time, it’s so convenient that certain activities can be continued online despite of schools starting on premises.  So, we are basically part of that new change and we were ready and we are continually upgrading on this. 

Q: Indian Community School is the only school in Kuwait, which always cares about financial stability of parents. So of course, during pandemic, many parents lost jobs, some did not get salaries for some time, so were you able to do something about this issue?

A: We call it as a free ship, there is a process in the school where we send circular to the parents that need concession on the fees. We screen families with salary less than KD 300 to KD 350 and we call those parents and understand their financial issues. Based on that analysis, we allocate around KD 50,000 per annum as a free ship. 

That has been happening for last three years. so, in this pandemic we noticed many have, in fact has got into this issue of losing jobs. First what we did is relaxed the deadline for tuition fee by few months, we tried to give time to parents as much as possible. In this regard, please note that ICSK fees is one of the lowest among all Indian schools in Kuwait.

During this pandemic, we involved some volunteers who can help some children in paying the tuition fee and we also added some amount. We don’t have surplus or profit to the school this year. And when the fee is reduced by 25 percent, there is no question of profit, it’s a loss only. We have to manage with available funds and at the same time we can’t reduce the salaries of the working staff. And rent also there’s no reduction. So, we are managing we have no complaints. With the help of the community and parents we are reasonably in a strong position.

Q: Continuing our discussion about pandemic, we have heard a lot about ICSK being involved in community services by opening doors for social organizations to store ration kits, using the school premises as storage warehouse. Tell us more about this gesture?

A: Yes, during the early pandemic period, our embassy approached us & requested that some of the local Indian community organizations are keen about distributing ration kits to the needy. Since our schools are in key localities where Indians reside, they wanted to utilize our schools to be used as a warehouse where they can keep the stocks & carry out the distribution activity, 

We acknowledged the request and immediately opened the gates for them, and then not only the place we made sure that they got assistance with help from our staff. Apart from that we offered our Khaitan facility for the people travelling back to India, offered school vehicles also for the people to commute during the amnesty arrangements.

We made it clear to embassy that we are always there for the community and our doors are open.

Q: Recently, we have heard that ICSK management has started a new school. We heard some good things about it. Can you put some light on it?

 A: During the school admissions for the children, we notice that there are many parents who are interested in classrooms with limited students. Basically, on an average, in ICSK, we have around 40 students in each classroom. And our school hours end at around 1:30pm. We have many working parents who are looking for a school which offers extended classes till 3pm so that they can comfortably finish work and attend to their kids. A School where the kids can stay back and spend some more time in the school, do their homework, carry out their activities, extracurricular activities etc. The name of the school is Indian School of Excellence, we call it ISEK.

So, this has been going on for quite some time, and I’ve seen many students in our nearby area in Salmiya who travel all the way to other localities to find such schools. So, we thought why can’t we offer such kind of school in our area. This was there since last four years, we were thinking about it and many parents were requesting also to have such School, where you know, we can have limited students that can stay for extended period in school; there was a constant demand.

Luckily, In Salmiya when the Gulf British Academy building was vacated, we found out and negotiated with them and got that building. In fact, it is a very well-known English school that was running till now with very high fees and with the same 30 students per classroom concept. 

So, we thought why not cater to the request of our community and parents. We started this school with the objective of no or limited homework with more activity based learning and personal attention. It is going to be 100%day boarding school in true sense. On popular demand French will also be introduced as the second language from class one. 

Yeah, so, these are the things that were not there in other ICSK schools which we are trying to implement in the new school. Since there will be lesser students in a class, fees have to be proportionately higher than compared to other schools in the group. 

The new school is primarily focusing on parents that have different preferences than ICSK; there’s no discrimination or distinction between ICSK and ISEK. The quality of  ICSK will also will be maintained on par. And this is further for those few parents who can afford it who want one to one guidance for the children and want to avail extended school hours for their kids. 

That’s why this concept has come in and definitely everybody will see how this will be a value for money for those parents. 

Q: Our viewers are definitely eager to know what kind of fee structure you’re offering at this stage, is the fee structure clear or still it is under consideration?

A: No, Fee structures are ready but not published yet. What happens generally is, we submit details to ministry of education in Kuwait for approval, details like our logo, our name to the ministry and ministry gives approval, as well as to the fees. But then the municipality, the Minister of Health have a clearance procedure that takes its time. There’s no big difference when compared with ICSK fee structure, since we will have 10 less students in each class, we have considered that factor and added to the fees.

I can share the proposed fee structure for your readers.

Q: When are we likely to start the new school operations officially?

A: The school will start from 1st April for the academic year 2021-22. First week of April will be the starting date for the school. Already we have the team of teachers selected and more teachers will also come in as we get closer to March. 

School will have unique textbooks. These books will be totally different than what we use at ICSK. There will be a software backed App which is an upgraded app, teachers can control the content, textbook material and conduct classes online. Also, the assignments can be managed from this app itself. It will be posted by the teachers, students can complete and submit back, there will be videos, PowerPoint presentations etc. It is going to be a different experience for the parents. It’s not the same application what we use in ICSK. It’s a different application, which has additional features as per the new school concept. 

Q: Q8india as a community when we interact with parents we find, there are many parents who are interested in URDU as a language option for kids. 

A: Definitely, Thank you for this suggestion, we never thought about it. by the way I also studied Urdu as second language in my high school. Believe me Urdu is one of the best languages. When you learn Urdu it will become very easy to learn Arabic and in Gulf countries it will be very beneficial for students. We will look into this and do our best. 

Q: We are approaching towards the end of this interview, is there anything you want to convey to the Indian community in Kuwait. 

A: Sure Sure why not, First of all I want to thank them for sending their children to ICSK, believe me we are the only School that takes only Indian Students. It is the only School where you will find children coming from different economic backgrounds into one classroom. Exactly what we experienced during our childhood in India, Unity in Diversity is our specialty. We are so happy that we are able to cater that to the Community. Another important thing I noticed is that many Alumni’s of ICSK are holding key positions in Kuwait. I am sure many are doing well in India and other countries as well. One more thing I want to convey, we give a lot of stress on a holistic development where sports are given a very high priority. We have set up in Khaitana Cricket coaching centre and in Junior school as well. And in the evening, we have sports such as shuttle, football, volleyball, badminton, karate that ensure physical fitness of the children. These initiatives are appreciated by many parents and now we have more than 1,000 students  participating every day even in this pandemic too as we speak. So, we are open and that’s really been appreciated by parents a lot. If one is physically fit and keep your immune system strong, you can defeat Covid. Our robotics classes is a super hit. We have more than 800 students enrolled in these classes that teach artificial intelligence, robotics and coding. I personally would urge all readers who have children to encourage their wards to participate in games and other activities. Overall development is the key to success in life. The same thing will be continued in new school. As the pilot project we have started already dance classes and football classes. The response is great.

From the time we have taken charge in2016 at ICSK, we have put in lots of effort; basically the school is progressing with the blessings of all stake holders. We insist on improving automation, holistic development of child and rely a lot on instant feedback of the parents. It has been an exciting journey so far while we will continue to strive for excellence and try to give best human beings to the society.

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