UAE students and their families stranded in India due to the ongoing flight suspensions are grappling with online learning, with parents saying the in-person education model would be much more preferable for their wards.
However, with the current travel restrictions still in place, virtual learning is the only option left for such students.
Technical issues lead the list of challenges, with students' ability to adapt, engage in class, and motivate themselves some of the other areas of concern.
Hanzalah Hussain Syed, a Grade 6 student of Amity School Dubai, has been stuck in Hyderabad since March this year. As a result, he and his two siblings have had to keep up with their lessons via online classes from India for about four months.
His father, Syed Sameeruddin, told Khaleej Times he would much rather that his children return to face-to-face learning, as he believes the benefits of that learning model outweigh that of distance education.
“My wife and children had to leave for their hometown as my father-in-law had passed away and my wife wished to spend some time with her family," he explained. However, the dad of three noted changes in his children after they switched to remote learning. "I feel my second child, especially, has become a little less active,” he said.
Sameeruddin is presently holding out hope that his kids will still be able to return to school after the summer. “I am still hopeful that the travel restrictions will be lifted in time, so my family can return and the children can attend school in person, as they did earlier, before the pandemic.”
Students who are in board classes are even more concerned, as their performance in the high-stake exams depend on their preparation, for which they feel going to school is imperative.
Subiksha Jeyapaul, a Grade 12 student of Dubai's Gulf Indian High School said she had to travel to Thoothukudi (formerly Tuticorin) in Tamil Nadu, as her grandmother was ill. "Although I only did a week of online schooling from here before schools closed for summer vacations, I faced quite a few challenges. The poor internet connection here and the frequent power cuts have been a major problem. I tried adapting as much as I could,” she said.
The teenager said her biggest worry stems from the fact that the current academic year is a critical one for her. "Our theory and practical classes will begin soon as schools reopen in September. I really need to get back in time, as I don’t want to miss those classes. But the frequent postponement in the flight resumption dates has been tough, leaving me constantly disappointed. I hope we get to hear some good news soon,” she said in earnest.
Similarly, Divisha Modi travelled to Mumbai, with her five-year-old son Rivaan, at the start of the summer holidays to meet her ailing mother.
Like many others, they too are now stuck in India, waiting desperately to hear of any flight updates that would help them return to normal life in Dubai.
“I am worried that the suspension may last longer than I thought," said Divisha. "I needed to visit India as I hadn’t seen my mother in two years and she has been quite unwell. We travelled in the hopes that flight operations from India would resume before September."
The stranded expat said she has been keeping up with the news every day and checking in with everyone she knows for 'positive news'. She is still hopeful of being able to return in time for the next academic session.
“If we can’t return, I will have to request my son’s school, Dubai International Academy in Emirates Hills, to accommodate him for online classes. This will be far from ideal though. I hope it won't hamper his learning graph, as children so young can barely concentrate in online classes. If the situation continues though, that will be the only option left."
Divisha believes offering alternative options would go a long way to alleviating the mental stress of many stranded expats right now.
"If people with Golden Visas are allowed to travel from restricted countries, why can't the rest of us just be allowed to quarantine on return? At least that way our children would be able to go back to a normal life and resume their studies properly at school.”
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