Distance learning
The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped UAE schools from holding interschool events Image Credit: For representational purpose only

Dubai: The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped UAE schools from holding interschool events, most of which continue to take place online.

In March 2020, schools had closed and moved to full distance learning until September 2020. While classes reopened physically, in-person interschool events such as sports tournaments and quiz contests remained suspended due to the large numbers of students normally seen at such events. Adapting to the prevailing situation, schools coordinated with each other to host virtual versions of interschool events.

Nationwide invites

Credence High School, Dubai, hosted events such as ‘Virtual Interschool Olympics’ and ‘Expressions 2021 Art Fiesta’, which invited all students across the UAE aged four to 18 years, said the school’s CEO and principal Deepika Thapar Singh. Meanwhile, its students also participated in virtual interschool events hosted by other schools, such as a quiz contest and Spelling Bee. Even a career counselling session was organised virtually by a school in India.

Singh said: “Each member of the Credence family is open to ideas and willing to plunge into the ever-changing circumstances with zeal and energy and that keeps us going positively. The situations arise but how we deal with them is in our hands and that is all about learning efficiently.”

Seeing opportunities in challenges

In Abu Dhabi, Global Indian International School (GIIS) hosted ‘Al Tasamuh’ interschool competition (which is also a celebration of peace and tolerance) and participated in other schools’ and universities’ competitions, mostly virtually, said principal Dr Heena Rachh. In Ramadan, Dunes International School Abu Dhabi held its ‘3rd Inter School Islamic Fest 2021’, in which GIIS Abu Dhabi also participated. Like other years, GIIS Abu Dhabi also took part in ‘Make X’, an international robotics competition. To celebrate World Environment Day (June 5), Science India Forum has invited GIIS Abu Dhabi to participate in an interschool drawing and photography Competition.

“GIIS students are proving the statement, ‘The challenges are immense, but the opportunities are numerous’, by participating in all kinds of competitions,” Dr Rachh said.

Back on track

There has also been a return to sports in limited format. Simon Herbert, head of school/CEO, GEMS International School — Al Khail, Dubai, said: “Firstly, there is a slow return to ‘normality’. Sports squads — except swimming — have been taking place outside school hours, run by [an operator]. PE teachers can now take squads, but there are no matches as such. This month, at GEMS International School — Al Khail, we have a badminton and table tennis tournament, culminating in student winners playing against staff winners. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy such activities again.”

The school has also seen online debates, lectures, presentations, videos devised by students for charitable endeavours, quizzes, environmental projects and conferences attended by many GEMS students.

Going virtual, staying safe

At GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa, Isabel Olley, assistant principal for Assessment, Reporting and Recording and head of Mini-School for Early Years Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1, said the school has been “quick to take advantage of every opportunity” for taking part in events. “We sourced courses, webinars, workshops and competitions and brought these to school for all ages and abilities to enjoy. We were still able to participate and organise many events and activities. It has been an exciting journey, developing creative and innovative practise to ensure that events can run virtually. These virtual events have ensured our students still gain rich learning experiences, while adhering to safety regulations,” she added.

Elaborating on the school’s participation, Siobhan Dickerson, director of Specialism and Careers and Higher Education Advisor, GEMS FirstPoint School — The Villa, said: “Since our return to school [in September 2020], our students have participated in virtual workshops with local providers such as SAE Institute and Birmingham University. They have been able to attend open days of local and international universities. Our staff have been recognised as some of the most influential people in education in 2021.”

Regarding upcoming events, Dickerson said: “Looking forward, we are excited to be one of the few schools selected to work with RIT Dubai on their global stock market trading competition and to continue our work with Schneider Electric to source solutions for a more sustainable future. Our new BTEC courses in Esports and Game Design will encourage us to continue working with partner organisations to make sure we have the very best opportunities for our students.”