Empty seats, teachers wearing headset mics: Inside a Dubai classroom on first day of school
Dubai - Some children were brought in by their parents, while others came on school buses - all in an organised manner, with safety measures in place.
It was an unusual first day of classes in Dubai: Classrooms were sparsely populated, majority of seats were empty, and only a handful of chairs were occupied by students who had opted for face-to-face classes.
Some children were brought in by their parents, while others came on school buses - all in an organised manner, with safety measures in place.
The yellow buses were less than half full, as part of physical distancing measures, and parents were not entertained within the building premises beyond a certain point.
Among the students at GEMS Our Own Indian School, the usual back-to-school excitement was in the air, but there was also a tinge of anxiety. After all, it was the first day of a 'new normal' class after schools shuttered down in March because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Yash Vinayak Upadhaya, a Year 12 student, said: "It feels good to be back in school, although it feels like a different environment. There are doubts in your head sometimes with everything that is going on, but schools have taken all necessary precautions to ensure that we are safe. So, I don't think there is a need to be apprehensive about anything.
"Everybody is responsible for themselves as long as you wear your mask and follow the guidelines, I don't think there is much to worry about."
Students were greeted with temperature checks at the entrance, while sanitiser dispensers lined the hallways.
Stickers and signs on the floors and walls helped ensure that they kept their physical distance, and break time no longer meant going to the cafeteria as pupils now have to remain inside their classrooms.
Despite the adjustments they had to make amid the new normal, those who opted for on-site classes were convinced about the visible gains of campus learning.
Arjun Narendra Kumar, another student, said: "I could not focus at home. There was no teacher supervising me and I have a low attention span. So, I would frequently imagine things and drift away from the lesson. I would feel sleepy at home.
"Since there was no actual conversation and we would just mute our microphones. I could not learn as much as I would learn in school. In school, you have teachers supervising you and there is a 'work' environment which you can't achieve at home."
Adityta, a Year 12 student, agreed, saying she felt bored sitting at home. "Coming to school is also about developing personal connections."
Teachers went the extra mile to simultaneously hold classes for online and on-site learners - sharing laptop screens on the smartboards and delivering lectures over headset mics. Even with all the new things that have to be done for this school term, most of the staff are well prepared.
Lalitha Suresh, principal of GEMS Our Own Indian School Dubai, said: "It's exciting to come back to school and see the children in person. I want to convey a sense of confidence to all my teachers, staff and students that we are fine and the world is a good place."
Suresh said that keeping a close watch on children to ensure that social distancing is maintained could be a challenge. "But apart from that, I am not really worried about the academics because I know the teachers will catch up. In the time of pandemic, the most important thing is the health and safety of children."
While majority of parents have opted for online classes for now, the principal is confident that the number of students in classrooms will gradually increase.