Children learn to balance studies and fasting

Shortened school hours and an emphasis on the value of Ramadan rituals help, parents say

Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The hours of fasting are long and the days may be hot, but children across the UAE are managing to observe the various Ramadan rituals and traditions with much gusto.

Parents say that the shortened school hours and a focus on the importance of fasting are especially helpful for children, who must balance their academics with the demands of fasting.

While the first few days were tougher, most children have now settled into a Ramadan routine that often involves a nap after school hours and a slightly later bedtime.

“The whole spirit of Ramadan has my eight-year-old son, Fizan, especially excited. Even though he is writing school exams and I’ve never stressed that he has to fast, he insists on fasting, and has already fasted for most of the month already,” Shafeek Yousuf, 37, a travel agency manager from India, told Gulf News.

“As parents, we just insist that he naps for an hour or two once he gets home from school, and bedtime is set at about 11pm so that he can rest before the predawn meal,” the father told Gulf News.

This year, Ramadan coincides with the final school exams, especially for children in the higher grades. The school year ends on June 22, and Eid will be marked on June 25 or 26. As a result, many older children are now attending the end-of-year exams, even with the spiritual and social obligations Ramadan brings.

Ashraf Farook, 43, an engineer from Egypt, said much of children’s ability to strike a balance between their academics and Ramadan depends on the example set by parents.

“Fasting is an important part of our faith, and as we have always stressed this, my 12-year-old son has managed to fast throughout the holy month. The first few days were definitely harder, and getting enough sleep was a challenge. But now, he manages to study after iftar, attend the Taraweeh prayers and even get to bed by 11pm,” Farook said.

Zubair Ahmed, a senior marketing executive from India, said the change in school hours is particularly helpful.

“After she gets home, my daughter gets some sleep and then begins studying, and all this is well before iftar. She still gets to bed by 9.30pm, and on the days when she is fasting, she also wakes up for suhour,” Ahmed said. His daughter, who is enrolled in Grade 4, is attending exams this week.

“I feel that it is her enthusiasm that really makes all of this manageable and even enjoyable,” he added.

“My son, although just seven years old, is fully committed to fasting. In fact, I am the one who feels more tired on week days when I have to get him to school,” said K. Saleh, an Emirati working mother in the capital.

The onus of ensuring that children have a healthy and productive Ramadan while attending school lies with parents, and educators say parents must help set the right balance.

“As a mother of five myself, I know how challenging it can be to ensure children fulfil their academic commitments at a time when social meetings and spiritual obligations are at the forefront of their lives. But a few simple measures can help. For instance, I always get my children to sleep for a bit after getting back from school,” said Fatima Al Bastaki, principal at the Hamdan Bin Zayed School in Abu Dhabi.

“It also helps if children are regular with their studies because the pressures of studying now are minimised,” she added.

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