Stock – India Airports
Aircraft parked at an airport in India. Only certain categories of passengers can now fly back directly from India, following the restrictions on entry of passengers to the UAE that began on April 25. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Thousands of Indian expatriate teachers and other employees of schools in the UAE, who are back home on vacation, are worried whether they will be able to return before the schools reopen after the summer holidays.

While more than 40 per cent of the employees of Indian schools in Abu Dhabi are reportedly in India now, those waiting to return to schools across the UAE include senior school management team members, according to educators who spoke to Gulf News.

Teachers, support staff, administration and IT employees are required to report physically before the Indian curricula schools reopen for their new academic session on August 29. They are now seeking help from the authorities to grant them special approvals to return to the UAE by following the conditions set for the exempted categories of passengers, various educators told Gulf News.

Only certain categories of passengers — including Emiratis, diplomats, golden and silver visa holders, investors and certain professionals who are granted special approvals — can now fly back directly from India, following the restrictions on entry of passengers to the UAE that began on April 25.

Though stranded students can opt for online education, some emirates have made the presence of students within the UAE mandatory in order to continue with remote learning. So, online education of students may also be affected, they pointed out.

When contacted, the Indian Consulate in Dubai said the mission was aware of the situation and was working with the local authorities to see if the affected people could return.

Family emergencies and vacation

Some teachers had travelled before the summer holidays due to family emergencies and are now stranded.

Nidhi Kashyap

Speaking to Gulf News over the phone, Nidhi Kashyap, a teacher with an Indian school in Dubai, said she had flown home with her family by the end of April as her father-in-law was in a critical condition. “Two days after we landed, we lost him and since then it has been a real fight. In a place with surging number of COVID-19 cases, we fought each day to keep ourselves safe,” said Nidhi, who is pregnant with her second child.

She said she stayed at her in-laws’ house in Uttar Pradesh for three months and reached her house in New Delhi only last week. “I have a six-year-old son and I am seven months pregnant. I am completely unaware whether I will be able to return home [to Dubai] or not. My health insurance is valid only in the UAE and I am also expected to return to work from August 22,” said Nidhi. “According to airline rules, if I wish to travel after 27 weeks of pregnancy, I have to do it at my own risk and with a certificate from a doctor. We hope the authorities take note of this under special consideration,” she said.

Shajahan K. Mohammed

Shajahan K. Mohammed, principal of New Indian Model School in Sharjah, had travelled to India for his mother’s heart surgery. “I had planned to return by August 10, as I need to be back early to ensure smooth operations before the school reopening,” he said, from Kerala.

Principals, supervisors also concerned

Dr Nasreen Banu B.R

Dr Nasreen Banu B.R, principal of Gulf Asian English School in Sharjah, who is also the UAE chapter convenor of CBSE schools in the country, said principals, vice-principals, supervisors and managers of various other Indian schools were also on vacation in India.

“Now, everyone is concerned if they can be back and complete the mandatory quarantine period before their reporting time. I have received requests from many principals in Dubai and Sharjah to take up the matter with the authorities. We are planning to approach the UAE education authorities such as the Ministry of Education, Adek, KHDA and SPEA, as well as the Indian Consulate in Dubai and the Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi with their requests”, she said.

Discussions with principals and vice-principals

Meanwhile, Dr Thakur. S. Mulchandani, director and principal of Sunrise English Private School in Abu Dhabi, said more than 40 per cent of the teachers and other employees of Indian schools in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain are likely to be affected if they do not manage to fly back before the schools reopen.

Dr Thakur. S. Mulchandani

“I got to know about this after having discussions with principals and vice-principals of 22 CBSE schools. Since this is emerging as a major concern, we are planning to approach the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) for guidance and support to help them fly back before classes begin.”

He said around 35 teachers in his own school were in India.

GEMS Education, which employs a large number of teachers from India, said some of them had returned to their home country over the summer break and are now facing difficulties in returning to the UAE.

Elmarie Venter

“The same challenge is also faced by new teaching staff from India who are due to join our schools for the new academic term,” said Elmarie Venter, chief operations and marketing officer, GEMS Education.

“We are exploring all available options to facilitate travel for our GEMS teachers and are in continuous dialogue with the authorities to ensure we meet all requirements. Our focus is on making sure our teaching staff are all safely in the UAE and ready to welcome students back to school on the first day of term on August 29,” she added in a statement to Gulf News.

Exams, practical classes may be hit

Nithin Suresh, the UAE chapter coordinator of Kerala State Board schools, said hundreds of teachers from nine schools following the Kerala Board syllabus in the UAE are on vacation in India.

Nithin Suresh

“More than 100 teachers of New Indian Modern School in Dubai are in India. There are several drivers, conductors and messengers also who have gone home for vacation. If the teachers don’t arrive for school reopening, it will be a big issue, especially because exams for grade 11 will be conducted from September 6. Teachers have to be posted at different schools for invigilation,” Suresh said.

“Some students are also back home. Maybe they will be able to change the exam centre and write the exam from Kerala. But the rest of the students are waiting here. Some parents are also stuck back home while their children are here with the relatives,” he said.

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Soja Saji, operations manager, Asian International Private School Group, which runs three schools in Abu Dhabi, said the physical absence of the teachers at the time of reopening will have immense negative impact on the students and the school community.

Soja Saji

“Most of our teachers are on school visas and live here without their families. They went on vacation to see their families after two years since last year nobody could travel during the summer vacation. Had they not gone this time, it would have affected their mental health. Some of our employees’ visas will expire in September. They are worried about that also. Some are single women. They can’t travel via other countries,” she said.

“We had opted for hybrid learning and those students coming for ‘Face-to-Face’ classes would not have teachers if they don’t return in time. Senior students also come to the school to attend their practical classes.”

Third-country route not viable

“The alternative option to travel via countries on the Green List and spend two weeks of quarantine period is highly inconvenient and expensive for families to afford. The UAE has a legacy of being considerate on humanitarian grounds and in this situation too, all are eagerly waiting for a positive gesture from the authorities,” said Shajahan.