Parents in the UAE will grapple with fear and relief when their children return to schools on January 3 after the winter break. Fear of exposure to new coronavirus will be on their minds as the pandemic continues to rage worldwide. The arrival of a new strain in the United Kingdom only amplifies the fears. There’s relief too since many parents have been stressed by juggling work-from-home and supervising distance learning of their children.
Parents worry, that’s normal. But fear can’t be allowed to rule our lives. Classroom teaching is integral to the development of a child. If COVID-19 safety protocols are followed, there’s no reason for concern. Schools in Dubai had reopened in August after several months of distance learning imposed by the spread of coronavirus. The safety protocols chalked out by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) helped Dubai schools to offer blended learning (a mixture of classroom teaching and online classes). And parents had the option of choosing distance learning.
All this worked out well, and the students went away for the winter break. This should be good news for the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge as they prime the schools in the UAE capital for reopening in the new year. Advisories have gone out on the options for parents and students. All advisories stress on safety and the need to safeguard the health of students.
Safety from the virus is linked to behaviour and hygiene. So when classes resume, it’s prudent to follow the safety protocols diligently. Staff and support staff at schools must ensure that pupils do not ignore the safety measures. Children need constant reminders of the dangers of lurking pathogens. And that’s important to continue classroom learning in the time of coronavirus.
Classroom learning cannot be substituted by online classes. One Physics teacher lamented the absence of classroom teaching, saying that she’s unable to show live experiments to students. Live experiments reinforce the understanding of the principles in Physics. Students miss the visual cues of teachers during distance learning, and teachers are unable to gauge how well the pupils have understood the topics.
In schools, learning is not limited to classrooms. Pupils learn from each other, and social interaction is essential for developing the mind and body. The role of physical education too shouldn’t be underestimated. There’s every reason for students to return to classrooms. But parents should be comfortable with that. The arrival of vaccines should put their minds at rest.