Sharjah: After six months, from Sunday onwards, students start going back to their classrooms at the 120-odd private schools in Sharjah.
Their return had been pushed back twice (by two weeks each time) since the new academic year started on August 30 because of the prevailing “health status” at the time in Sharjah, officials had said. Now, after having tested negative for COVID-19, students and teachers in Sharjah will be attending classes physically for the first time since movement restrictions came into effect in March over the coronavirus pandemic.
However, not all students are coming back on Sunday as many schools will follow a phased, gradual reopening timeline. Meanwhile, many students had in advance opted for full distance learning for this term, so they will not be physically attending school. Also, some schools only have in-person classes on certain days of the week, with the rest of the school week reserved for online learning, which is known as the ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ model.
In total, around 213,400 students attend school in Sharjah, according to the last Sharjah census in 2015.
Also on Saturday, Sharjah officials announced the distribution of a new e-book for children, teens and parents explaining the guidelines for going to school during the pandemic. Schools already have strict and detailed rules to follow as per the ‘Guidelines for Reopening Private Schools in Sharjah’ announced in August by Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA). These include temperature checks, wearing of masks, social distancing, frequent sterilisation, limiting bus and classroom capacity, having isolation rooms and several other measures.
‘Wait and watch’
Sharjah Indian School, which has around 9,000 students, is only expecting a few students to return to campus this week, said principal Pramod Mahajan. The school will follow a hybrid model. “We are reopening and looking forward to welcoming back our students. Every corner of the school is fully ready with all the precautionary measures related to COVID-19. There were tough and thorough inspections by the authorities before the reopening to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” Mahajan added.
“All that remains is for the parents to send their children [back to school]. However, it is a ‘wait and watch’ psychology for many of them who still have some reservations. At first, we are expecting a few students to join us, but we’re optimistic that this figure will rise.”
There has been a recent rise in the number of confirmed cases in the UAE, alongside a rise in the number of tests done as well. On Saturday, the UAE reported 1,078 COVID-19 cases, crossing the 1,000-mark for the fourth consecutive day, while 857 COVID-19 patients made a full recovery. The development took the overall number of confirmed infections in the country to 90,618 and recoveries to 79,676.
‘Teaching beyond the walls and screens’
Dionne P. Foy, principal of Al Wahda Private School, said it was essential to keep students both engaged and secure as the pandemic continues. The American school will adopt both face-to-face and online learning. “The approach to learning is remarkably simple during such an unprecedented year. Al Wahda’s talented and diverse teachers work together by providing their skills and support to engage our committed families. As a professional learning community, we are committed to working tirelessly to provide challenging educational opportunities for children each day in an environment where safety comes first,” added Foy. “Everyone who remembers their own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. Teaching is a passion that can be seen beyond the classroom walls and beyond the screen,” she added.