How UAE schools help students cope with classmate’s death

Wellness experts emphasised that it is important to recognise that each student navigates grief uniquely


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 9 May 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 9 May 2024, 10:37 PM

School leaders in the UAE said the loss of a classmate can be quite disturbing for pupils, especially for young children, who may not yet have developed the coping mechanisms to deal with such extreme situations.

This follows in the aftermath of the tragic loss of a seven-year-old boy who died in a locked car in Sharjah.

The young student from Ibn Sina School stayed trapped inside the car for several hours before he was discovered dead on Monday. The woman responsible for dropping him off at school had been employed by his parents to handle his transportation, along with other children.

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Khaleej Times reached out to educators and wellness experts to understand how schools respond in such situations and help students navigate through their feelings.

Abhilasha Singh, Principal, Shining Star International said, “Losing a friend is very traumatic for classmates. An empty seat and table bring back fond memories and children do not have the mental wherewithal to deal with the loss.”

Abhilasha Singh. Photo: Supplied
Abhilasha Singh. Photo: Supplied

She explained in such cases, specialised school staff steps in to talk to the students.

“The school counsellor will conduct sessions to help students understand what happened. There should be space provided for students to express themselves and manage their emotions. There needs to be an effort to develop resilience in students and there has to be a strong ‘social-emotional learning programme’ for children. Institutions must not wait for a problem to start, to offer help," said Singh.

Validating grief

Shedding light on how schools and teachers play a crucial role in supporting pupils through such difficult times, Sushma Dmello, Counselor at Amity School Dubai, pointed out that the key is to create a supportive and empathetic environment where students feel understood, validated, and cared for as they navigate the grieving process.

Sushma Dmello. Photo: Supplied
Sushma Dmello. Photo: Supplied

She said: “Dealing with the loss of a friend can be incredibly challenging for students. Schools often create a safe and supportive environment where students can express their emotions in a healthy way. Teachers can encourage students to seek help from the school counsellor or psychologist who can offer emotional support, coping strategies, and a listening ear for students who are struggling with the loss.”

Experts stress that when children are grieving, it's common for their concentration and academic performance to be affected.

“Teachers and school administrators understand that students may have difficulty concentrating on their schoolwork while grieving and provide accommodations like offering extensions on assignments, giving flexible deadlines, and extending additional support. They must regularly check in and monitor the academic progress and emotional well-being of the grieving children,” added Dmello.

Significance of commemoration

Wellness experts emphasised that it is important to recognise that each student navigates grief uniquely and provide a safe space where children feel empowered to express their emotions without fear of judgement.

Girish Hemnani. Photo: Supplied
Girish Hemnani. Photo: Supplied

Girish Hemnani, Energy Healer and Life Coach based in Dubai said: “By extending compassionate listening and unwavering support, we honour the validity of their feelings, acknowledging that the journey of healing is deeply personal and non-linear. Moreover, it’s imperative to recognise the significance of commemoration and remembrance in honouring the life of the departed friend. Encouraging students to partake in meaningful rituals or tributes allows them to celebrate their friend’s legacy while finding comfort in collective solidarity.”


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