Dubai/Abu Dhabi: Attendance levels continued to fall on the second day of the school year with even fewer students turning out at government schools on Thursday compared to the 30 per cent student turnout on Wednesday.

Some schools were deserted as none of the students turned up. Principals and teachers attributed the record absenteeism to the fact that the start of the academic year fell close to the weekend.

Mohammad Al Mas, Principal of Mohammad Bin Rashid Public School, said, "There was hardly any pupil turnout these two days, especially on the second day, but whoever came got to collect their books and schedules. Besides, these two days are good for finalising student transfers among public schools which could be a tiring issue in the first few days of the academic year."

"It doesn't make much difference for us if the school started in the middle of the week or beginning. Having it this way was also positive for us," he said.

Ahmad Al Mulla, Principal of Omar Bin Al Khattab Model School said, "We had a fewer turnout than yesterday which is about 50 per cent but its better than nothing. At least now half of the pupils collected their books. These two days were actually very beneficial for us because it made us as staff members of the school work harder to prepare for the beginning of the academic year. It helped us complete certain documents for a number of pupils."

Some parents said they decided not to send their children to schools after receiving an SMS stating that regular classes will resume on Sunday, and that the school will be conducting registration process on the first two days.

Attendance percentage fell further from 30 per cent yesterday as many students who attended school on the first day decided to stay at home as they saw few classmates on the first day. "I did not go to school today as I know there won't be classes till Sunday. I think it would have been a good idea if the school reopening were postponed till Sunday," said Usman Ali Haj, a grade 11 student.

A senior teacher at Al Maktoum Boys School in Dubai said it is a usual practice among students to skip classes if there is a short gap between two holidays.

More than 597,000 students from public schools and private schools following the government curriculum were expected to start the academic year 2009-2010 on Wednesday after an extended summer break. A teacher in Al Thoraya public school in Abu Dhabi said that only 30 per cent of the students attended both the first and second day of school.

"Most families are still celebrating Eid and are on vacation with their children. As academics we will consider Sunday the first day of school and will start giving proper classroom work to our students. Till then we are focusing on student registrations," the source told Gulf News, adding that some students were allowed to leave their school as early as 11.30am.

An Emirati mother, Faiza Abdul Aziz, has not sent any of her five children to school yet, even though they are all in town. "I will wait till Sunday to send them. My husband went to each of the schools on the first day to make sure things are fine and that classrooms are hygienic. All parents are worried about H1N1, it's something we cannot ignore nor help be afraid from, so if it means delaying school days for our children to protect them, we will."

Did you keep your children at home during school hours this week? What was the reason for it? Is it productive to send students back to school at the end of the week?