Some schools and several students have switched to distance learning as daily cases for Covid-19 continue to rise in the UAE.
Head teachers highlight they have observed a surge in cases in the recent past and have been adhering to all Covid-19 protocols as laid down by the respective emirates.
Institutions are offering distance and hybrid learning options not only to all its Covid positive pupils but to even students who are identified as close contacts.
Lisa Johnson, Principal, American Academy for Girls, Dubai says, “We are seeing an increase in cases, up 10 per cent from two months ago. Both students and staff have been affected by this wave. But fortunately, the severity of our cases has not been serious. Most of our new cases have been identified as originating outside of the school community which is testimony that our preventive measures at school are effective at preventing infection rates between close contacts.”
If a student tests positively for Covid-19, schools move them to online instruction. Institutions have also made alternative arrangements in case a student tests positive during exams.
She adds, “Our hybrid model of instruction has been active throughout the pandemic with teachers and students fluidly navigating between in-person and online as needed. During online instruction, our students maintain contact with their primary teacher with instruction held via camera links simultaneously with in-person instruction. The teachers have adapted quite proficiently to the ebb and flow of in-person and online instruction. We still have end of term exams to administer and have quickly made plans to assign proctors where needed to support students testing at home.”
School heads in Dubai explain Covid positive individuals need to isolate for 10 days and can return to school once they are fever free for three days.
Close contact status is assigned when students or staff have been one metre from someone who tests positive with or without mask for period of 15 minutes or more.
Identified close contacts can continue to come to school provided they are symptom-free, but they do need to monitor for seven days after the last exposure.
In Abu Dhabi, schools ask for two negative tests before a Covid positive patient returns to the classroom.
Pali Nahal, Principal, Raha International School, Abu Dhabi, says, “There has been a gradual rise over the last two weeks, rather than a sudden spike. This has mainly been students with a small number of staff in comparison to the January peak. Students are offered online classes and can get in touch with their teachers through the online platforms during lessons. The quarantine period is 10 days but before students return to school, they must have two negative tests.”
The UAE has tightened Covid rules as the country experiences a spike in cases and hospitalisation of patients.
In Ras-al-Khaimah, an entire school switched to online learning recently.
Sonia Salim, a mother of two children whose kids go to a RAK school, says, “My children’s entire school moved to distance learning suddenly. In my children’s school it has been mandatory to get a PCR test done every 30 days and the report must be uploaded on the Google classroom. So, upon one such test, a lot of children I think tested positive. This followed a series of discussions on the school’s WhatsApp group and quite a bit of back and forth on the issue, with the school ultimately announcing remote learning. In fact, the Term 1 exams have also been postponed by the school until further notice.”
Parents also opine that with the rise in Covid cases, they are concerned about their wards missing examinations, as most Indian curriculum schools conduct either their first term exams or organize class tests before the summer break.
Rini Robins, whose son goes to DPS Sharjah, says, “Last week my child was asked to stay back at home by the school as he was considered a close contact. So, children who are traced as a close contact in the school or bus must remain home for five days. My son is in Grade 9, and he is fully vaccinated, so the quarantine period is less for them, I think. He returned to school on the fifth day with a negative PCR test report. Children who were positive or are a close contact are offered online lessons by the school. So, that was not an issue."
She adds, “Our only concern is that he had to miss a class test that was held while he was asked to stay at home. The school has said they will conduct a retest later or such children may be awarded marks after calculating an average based on other exams.”
Why should you keep your child at home if they display any symptoms?
Doctors in the UAE reiterate that parents should not send their children to school with any kind of symptoms.
In the last few weeks medics have clearly noticed a surge in coronavirus cases among children in the country.
Although, Covid-19 and flu symptoms are similar, they advise that it is better to take precautionary measures at the outset, keep wards at home and inform the school to stem the spread of the disease.
Dr Sumitra Mani, Specialist Pediatrician, Aster Hospital Cedars, Jebel Ali, says, “We are seeing a rise in Covid-19 cases among kids in the UAE. They normally present with common symptoms of Covid-19 at the outpatient clinics, including high fever, cough, and sore throat. Some children are seen with other symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and stomachache."
“We are seeing children with flu-like symptoms coming to us as well. As both flu and Covid-19 manifest the same symptoms in most cases it is difficult to delineate whether the child is having flu or Covid-19. But there are cases where children with flu-like symptoms turn negative for the Covid-19 test. So basically, children with flu become better in a day or two after taking the medications.”
They reiterate, “It is a little difficult to confirm whether the child has flu or Covid-19 unless a test for flu or Covid-19 is conducted.”
Covid-19 can cause long-term effects on children and adults
Mani adds, “It is imperative that parents understand Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease. It spreads through contact. If a child with Covid-19 goes to school, it is likely that all the other children in the classroom including others who interact with the child are at the risk of getting infected.
Medics underline that, “Parents must understand that Covid-19 can cause long-term effects on children and adults. They can develop other serious conditions as well.”
It is therefore advised that children with symptoms are not sent to school, and they isolate completely.
In case of flu, they can go back to school once they recover and there are no symptoms.
Doctors urge parents to inform the school authorities and ensure that others who might have been exposed take precautionary measures and observe if they develop symptoms.
Dr Deepak Gandhi, Specialist Pediatrician, Medeor Hospital, Dubai says, “These days, the general public has become more relaxed and may not be following norms for protection like masks and isolation. Some parents are testing at home with a kit, and many may not even be testing. School-going children, especially those under the age of 10 years, may not be vaccinated.”
He adds, “Symptoms of Covid-19 can be like any other flu with cough and cold of upper respiratory infection, vomiting and diarrhea of stomach flu, or mild fever even. So, it would be wise to take a physician's help and follow the guidelines before sending off your ward to school, because it might get serious for some. But luckily, the symptoms during this wave are less severe and mostly mild. So, I would request all the parents to follow the guidelines for the safety of our young ones.”
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