Private schools in Abu Dhabi have stepped up efforts to ensure that a large number of their pupils get vaccinated against Covid-19.
The move follows the authorities' approval of the blue initiative, which allows all schools in the emirate to relax measures and return to normal operations based on vaccination rates.
Abu Dhabi officials on Tuesday said the blue initiative, which is to be implemented from the second term of the current academic year, recognises vaccination as the key path to recovery, re-emphasises transparency, and enhances students' learning and social experience.
Neeraj Bhargava, Principal of Abu Dhabi Indian School said his school, which has more than 5,000 said although there has been a challenge in getting most of their pupils vaccinated given the huge number, the school has intensified communication with parents about the need to have their kids vaccinated for the safe return to normal school operations.
"Majority of our pupils are still learning remotely but we want them to return to the school campus for physical learning," said Bhargava.
"Our teachers are speaking to parents daily about the importance of physical learning and the need to have their children vaccinated to boost their immune systems so they can return for physical learning."
He added that through having as many pupils vaccinated as possible, it will help school operations return to normalcy.
"I had proposed to authorities about the need to have vaccination centres at school campuses as this would attract more parents to have their kids vaccinated, but this not yet been considered," he said.
Dr Thakur S. Mulchandani, Director/Principal of Sunrise English Private School in Mussafah, Abu Dhabi says their recent survey shows that 70 percent of their pupils below the age of 16 have been vaccinated.
"We are excited about the 'blue' initiative because it will push more parents to have their kids get vaccinated. We have increased efforts to ensure the safe return for physical learning through carrying awareness programs for our parents about the importance of vaccination for the children," he said.
According to Mulchandani, only 10 per cent of their 2,850 pupils have returned to school for in-class lessons during the school term as parents still fear for the safety of their kids.
"Our focus now also includes showing the parents the need for physical learning to support the kids' social and mental development," he said.
"Live teaching is very good because it enables the child to interact with the teacher. It also improves the child's happiness and wellbeing."
The principal pointed out that the school was currently conducting a survey involving parents to find out the reasons why they are reluctant to bring back their kids for physical learning despite putting safety and health measures in place.
"We want to know from the parents what they need to be done, what they expect from the school, and others," said Mulchandani.
Echoing similar sentiments, George Mathew, CEO and principal of Gems Indian School in Abu Dhabi says his team is keen on having their pupils vaccinated so as to remain in the 'blue' tier.
"We are showing the importance of the vaccine to our parents, and many have taken their kids for vaccination, and the number of vaccinated pupils is growing daily," said Mathew.
"We tell the parents that education, especially for young children, has always been physical through pupils interacting with teachers and their classmates," said Mathew.
"The Covid-19 situation had forced schools to conduct classes remotely and we have to do away with this through ensuring that the entire school community is vaccinated."
"Every day, we see the rate of vaccination improving and we welcome the same. I always urge all parents to choose this path as we move forward into post-pandemic recovery," he said adding that the best shield against the virus for everyone is vaccination.
Education regulators said schools will be tiered based on student vaccination rates. Higher vaccinated schools will be able to gradually relax measures, including reduced social distancing requirements, relaxed mask-wearing protocols, increased classroom and school transport capacity, and a return to extra-curricular activities, in-school events and field trips.
The four tiers are: 'Orange' for schools with less than 50 per cent of students vaccinated, 'Yellow' for schools with 50-60 per cent of students vaccinated, 'Green' for schools with 65-84 per cent of students vaccinated and 'Blue' for schools with 85 per cent and above students vaccinated.
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