fmME speaks to ADEC's Hamad Al Murar and Khaled Al Ansari
fmME speaks to ADEC’s Hamad Al Murar and Khaled Al Ansari to learn about the educational institution’s school services and infrastructure & fm divisions
With 255 schools, 32 adult education centres and 75 other facilities like gyms, offices, etc. under its supervision, it’s easy to see that the facilities management and school services teams at the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) have a challenging enterprise in front of them.
But if the stream of successful projects and initiatives announced by them over the past few months are any indication, then it is an endeavour that the ADEC teams have proved to be extremely well-equipped to handle.
Under the leadership of Khaled Al Ansari, division manager – school services, and Hamad Al Murar, division manager – infrastructure and facilities management, ADEC’s school services and facilities management teams have been working on and successfully delivering a number of noteworthy ventures.
These include the launch of ten new schools that have been awarded the Estidama 3 Pearl Rating, the initiation of total FM services at its facilities starting with the New England Center for Children in Abu Dhabi and the Al Saadi school in Ras Al Khaimah, as well as the deployment of an Emirati security and bus monitor workforce at its schools in the UAE capital.
While these initiatives may not seem to be directly linked to the educational objectives of ADEC, Al Murar is emphatic about the importance of his team’s contributions to the same. “FM is very much essential to the educational process,” Al Murar says. “I would consider it one of the main pillars supporting the education of our students.”
“After all, if we don’t have a functional facility that works all days of the year, then we simply wouldn’t be able to properly educate them,” he explains. “One small deficit in any of our activities will have a high impact on the academic process. And we are talking about the operations and maintenance of everything from equipment and furniture to the building skeleton—it’s all integral.”
Al Ansari agrees with Al Murar, saying that the services they provide are indeed helping in realizing ADEC’s overall goals. “Our aim is to introduce services that will help the schools staff—the educators and teachers—concentrate only on their work, which is the education of the students,” he says.
“We want them to leave the school management entirely in our hands—the goal is to reach a point where we are able to offer them services before they actually ask for it.”
Al Ansari adds that the role of the FM team is especially important when considering ADEC’s Future Schools Project, which aims to build 100 new schools in Abu Dhabi by 2020.
“The Future Schools Project aims to build schools for the future,” he says. “This means that these new facilities, which are being built using sustainable design principles, need to be operated and maintained at the very highest of standards, so as to ensure their functionality over long periods of time.”
The impact of the new initiatives that ADEC has been rolling out can be best seen in the increased number of students enrolling for the schools under its helm, as opposed to private schools.
“Ever since we started launching our new and improved schools to the market, we have seen a migration of local students from private schools to government schools,” Al Murar says. “Previously, we used to see our students moving to private schools—now, the reverse is happening.”
Of course, this increased interest in ADEC schools translates to their patrons expecting a lot more from their facilities as well.
“They don’t expect to see, say, damaged lights in the facility, or faulty air-conditioning in the premises,” Al Murar explains. “People are now a lot more aware about FM and what it is, and we’ll need to raise the standards at our facilities to meet with the expectations they have of us.”
Given the massive scope of the project, the list of services that the school services and FM teams provide at ADEC facilities is a long and exhaustive one, and its management is divided amongst a group of able professionals. Abdul Razzak Shaikh is the team’s senior FM specialist who works with and guides both the FM and school services sections.
Adel Al Marzouqi oversees functions like bus transportation (which sees active use by 84,000 students and involves the services of 1800 drivers, 1000+ Emirati bus monitors and 500+ expatriate bus monitors), office boy and pantry services, catering services, and messenger services as well.
Nabeel Al Haj, a veteran with both the UAE Ministry of Education and ADEC, manages the supply of furniture of schools. Besides reviewing the furniture requirements at each of the schools under ADEC, Al Haj is also responsible for dealing with suppliers and making decisions on designs and logistics.
ADEC has also embarked on a project to refurbish several of its existing schools, an initiative that is being driven by the team’s refurbishment specialist, Hisham Ismail. Another integral member of the team is Ruqaya Al Dhaheri, who’s responsible for interacting with school stakeholders to better understand their needs and requirements.
There are also three area-specific managers—Khaled Al Ahbabi looks after Al Ain’s 150+ schools and facilities, Ahad Imran Khan looks after the Western Region’s 50+ schools and facilities and Sultan Al Marzouqi looks after Abu Dhabi’s 150+ schools and facilities.
Both Al Murar and Al Ansari are quick to praise the work done by each of the above-mentioned team members, who work with school staff, contractors, FM service providers, and others to do their respective duties.
“The good thing about the team here is that everyone comes up with their new ideas to improve the service,” Al Ansari says. “All of them know that the end goal is to serve the students in the emirate, and they work keeping that objective always in mind.”
“The ADEC leadership always insists on supporting the teachers with all their needs, so that they need to focus only on the education of the students,” he adds. “This gives the team a clear view of the organisation’s objectives, and keeps them committed to the ADEC vision.”
But Al Murar says that he doesn’t want the team to rest on its laurels either. “We have so many new items, materials and methodologies introduced in our schools today, which means we have to be responsible also for learning how to maintain them, and ensure that they will last 10-20 years,” he says.
“So we need to enrol ourselves in training courses, meet with suppliers and other FM professionals in the industry, and use all that information to ensure that we are up to date with the latest in the industry,” he explains. “We have to keep learning, and ensure that our service is up to international standards.”
Al Murar also reveals that he is interested in getting more Emiratis to work in ADEC’s FM and school services sections.
“We’re thinking of starting a program, wherein we will hire fresh engineering graduates from local universities, and put them in a one-year special training course where they will learn the job through seminars, certifications and hands-on experience,” he says. “We hope that within a year’s time, they will be sufficiently trained to take on roles like site supervisor, or FM specialist.”
Al Ansari adds, “During the last few years, ADEC has been able to build a strong team in the FM field. Any new member that joins the team will therefore be able to learn a lot from his/her colleagues, and thanks to the unique type of services we offer to schools, he/she will also be able to have a fruitful work experience as well.”
But for all the work they do, Al Murar says that the biggest validation they get for their efforts is when they go to a school and hear the feedback from its end users. “When we go to the site, the people there come to us saying that they appreciate the facility and the services,” he says. “They are so happy with the quick responses they are getting to their requests and complaints.”
“At the end of it all, we are focused on serving the students, who, in our case, are mostly children,” Al Ansari says. “And when you’re dealing with kids, you always want to make them happy. And that’s what unique about our approach to the work we do—something you’d find only at schools.”