Dubai: Dubai students have a revealed their fears and shared their creativity during the COVID-19 lockdown in a 400-page digital journal.
The TWS Quarantine Diaries contains confessions, poems, artwork, letters and much more from hundreds of students of The Westminster School, a private British school in Al Qusais.
Taif Osman, who recently graduated from TWS, was one of the students who led the project. “I didn’t get to say goodbye, that was sad, after 15 years at my school because of the lockdown,” said Taif, 18, who is from Sudan. “When the pandemic hit, we used to talk to friends about what we were going through. We were part of the student council and we thought about giving all students a voice and let others read through the dairies,” Taif said about the project’s origin.
She and 13 other students formed a WhatsApp group to manage the submissions for the diaries on Google Drive. Four Head Students from Year 13, including Taif, led the project. They are attending university now.
What was expected to take 100 pages eventually ran into some 400 pages. “We didn’t expect it to become so big. Hundreds of students from all Year groups, from FS1 to Year 13, sent their submissions,” Taif said. The school has around 5,240 students.Though she missed her friends, the lockdown wasn’t particularly hard for Taif as she likes staying at home. “I spent my time expanding my skills, working on the diaries and getting ready for university. I used graphic design a lot for the diaries during the vacation, it kept me busy for more than four hours a day – especially because my laptop used to be really slow.”
Life under movement restrictions
However, many others found the movement restrictions distressing.
“Is this how it will go? Behind a screen and behind bars, for years to come and more. Maybe we won’t see the sky and its stars. But for a new world I’m willing,” a poem by Rositta Bobby, then in grade 10, says in the diaries. Many other submissions were digitised versions of handwritten letters of thanks to teachers and frontline workers. Some were to-do lists, such as “make paper planes” or accomplishments like “completed a whole Netflix series in one day”. There were also plenty of snaps of what students had cooked at home, a bird that flew into a balcony, and the house plant.
Common confessions included: “I never thought I’d miss school” and “basically I watch TV every time I’m free”.
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In a message in the diaries, TWS school principal Carl Roberts says: “Across the world 2020 has been one of the most devastating years in living memory. It will have a lasting impact on all of us, but none more than students who will never get back the time they missed from school.”He adds: “It is therefore heartening that something good can come from this situation and what you read in these pages is exactly that.”