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Covid in UAE: Dubai schools all set for 100% in-person learning

nandini@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 24, 2021

(File photo)

To quell parents’ concerns about the return to in-person learning, schools have been conducting regular workshops to instill confidence.

As Dubai schools gear up to welcome all students back to campus from October 3, strengthening Covid-19 safety measures has been high on the agenda.

Schools have been rearranging classroom seating, reinforcing the bus fleet and coaching school staff about safety protocols — all in preparation for a safe return.

After the stipulated date by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), students who wish to continue with distance learning must provide a medical certificate issued by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA). Those stuck abroad can also opt for distance learning after October 3.

Meanwhile, school heads said they greeted a majority of students back on campus on August 29.

To quell parents’ concerns about the return to in-person learning, schools have been conducting regular workshops to address safety concerns and instil confidence.

Karim Murcia, principal and CEO of GEMS Al Barsha National School, said the regular workshops ensured that schools were addressing parents’ concerns.

“There is also frequent communication between teachers and parents to ensure there is support at home for the learning and revision techniques developed in school,” he said.

Murcia added that the school staff are thrilled to welcome all their students for face-to-face learning from October 3.

“The return of swimming, school trips, extracurricular activities, performances and assemblies will enable our students to thrive socially and make outstanding progress in their learning," he said.

"As a school, we are ensuring that we continue to play our role in the community-wide effort to keep our community safe. We adhere strictly to all regulatory guidelines ... to ensure our students, staff and parents stay safe and healthy throughout the exciting academic year ahead."

Schools have also encouraged on-site visits for the minority of parents who had concerns about the resumption of in-person learning.

Every safety protocol, from risk assessment and Covid-19 awareness to daily temperature screening and crisis management, has been carefully curated by schools’ Health and Safety committees and is in place.

Sangita Chima, principal at Amity School Dubai, said: “Students who are still in distance learning are waiting enthusiastically to return to school on October 3. Our team is indeed ready with a ‘mindful marhaba (welcome)’ to greet all our learners.”

With an exciting day planned, Chima added that the aim is to seamlessly integrate home learners into interactive learning spaces.

“The school counsellor, teachers and students on campus have connected with distance learning students and their parents through interactive sessions to answer queries and address any apprehensions on returning back after 18 months of a different learning lifestyle,” she said.

Ninety per cent of students returned for in-person learning in September, and though parents of the remaining 10 per cent voiced concerns, Chima said they have since come around.

“Now, with safety protocols clearly explained, even they are ready to begin a ‘new chapter in learning’ for their children,” she said.

To ensure students’ safety, schools are continuing to work closely with School Transport Services (STS), while classroom seating and student movement within the premises are also top priorities.

Fatima Martin, principal at GEMS New Millennium School, said: “We have regulated the bus routes, working hand in hand with STS, our school transport provider. There have been additional recruitments of bus drivers and nannies across GEMS schools to be ready for the new demand in the sector."

"The clinic and medical staff have ensured that all staff and stakeholders are equipped with all the necessary information for a 100 per cent on-site learning.”

Deepika Thapar Singh, principal and CEO of Credence High School, said measures are also in place for school visitors.

“For any parent, visitor or guest entering the school, showing their vaccine card is mandatory. If they are not vaccinated with both doses of any of the vaccines approved by the UAE, then they must show a negative PCR test report that has a 48-hour validity,” she said.

With 80 per cent of students already vaccinated, Singh stressed that the only way forward is to get the vaccine, wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Some students, who were initially apprehensive about the mandatory return to in-person learning, are feeling more confident.

“I am very excited to meet my friends in person. I’ll also get to meet my teachers for the first time in person, so it’s an exciting feeling,” said Oshin Tiwari, a Grade 10 student at GEMS New Millennium School.

“I was a bit nervous at first when I read the news about mandatory face-to-face classes starting in October. But then when I thought about what I’m returning to, it felt good.”

Though the pandemic isn’t over, Tiwari said she is confident that schools will prioritise students’ health.

“I’m happy that I’ll be returning to a normal school life. My routine will be more effective now and my academic performance will improve, too. I’m really looking forward to my first day, face-to-face,” she said.

Zoya Farooqi, a parent who is sending her children to school from October 3, still has some reservations.

“I just felt safer keeping them at home,” she said. “However, now that in-person learning is mandated, we are not left with much of an option. Actually, my in-laws live with us, so we are quite concerned about their well-being."

"But I’ve instructed my children to wash and sanitise their hands regularly even when at school. Besides that, they cover themselves with masks all through the school hours, eat from their own lunch boxes and maintain social distance.”

At most schools, all staff and a significant number of students aged 16 and older are vaccinated. But schools are now encouraging all students age 12 and older to get inoculated, as well.

Twins Harkunwarveer and Ratanveer Singh, Grade 6 students at Amity School Dubai, said: “Learning was not hampered in any way during distance learning at Amity School Dubai. The time saved during distance learning was efficiently utilised in learning new skills."

"We did, however, really miss being social and interacting with classmates and teachers personally. On-campus learning at this stage will help us a great deal.”

nandini@khaleejtimes.com

Nandini Sircar





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