Back where they belong: GEMS Millennium School students at their campus this morning Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The gates were wide open, the hallways and classrooms buzzing, the in-person greetings warm and aplenty as teachers and students finally met each other in full strength across Dubai private schools today.

It was back to school in its truest sense as the students trooped in for face-to-face classes for the first time in 18 months after campuses were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per the directives of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, all Dubai students, who until now were still on distance or blended learning, had to be back in schools from today.

Students at the morning assembly at the Indian High School in Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

It finally felt like old times, said students.

“My class has the highest number of students who came face-to-face, and you will not believe, in just a week, more than 10 online students applied to attend on-site school. The safety procedures are being followed strictly. Our minds are at ease, and we all feel so happy,” said Priyal Babariya, a commerce student 12 B at the Indian High School, Dubai.

“I am extremely thrilled for our schools to be fully open. We did go to school a few times in the past few months, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere as having every single student back on campus. We all believe in our school’s ability to set a safe, healthy and joyous environment,” said Tejaswi, another student of Grade 10 at the school.

Students entering Indian High School amid strict COVID-19 protocols Image Credit: Supplied

Ishan Hashir of Grade 10 K, said: “Ever since the start of this pandemic, most of us students have been stuck in our home, with most of our means of education and social interaction being conducted online. This caused us to forget the feeling of talking to someone without the use of a microphone, to learn something without having to type on our keyboard, to have fun without having to be stuck inside. All of this has changed today.”

No more silent hallways

The school managements were equally thrilled.

Punit MK Vasu, CEO, The Indian High Group of Schools, told Gulf News: “After almost 18 months of silent hallways and nearly empty classrooms, it is a delight today to welcome all our students back into the campus. It really is quite wonderful to see shining eyes peeking over the top of masks.”

He said, “We are in the phase of building the ‘right normal’ looking at every aspect of life back at campus and how the back to school experience can be amplified. Our aim for the first few days is to normalise school days, have students reacclimatise to the campus, and reengage positive connections amongst students and staff, all of which are essential for successful learning and growth moving forward. We are balancing the educational, social and emotional needs of our students along with their health and safety.”
Due drills for arrival, dispersal

At the GEMS New Millennium School, Dubai, Principal Fatima Martin said, “We are delighted to finally open our doors to all students to return to collocated learning spaces. During the pandemic, we harnessed the full potential of technology in disseminating learning. As principal, it makes me happy to think that even during the most challenging times, we showed great adaptability and learning was not short on intensity and engagement. And we are now moving forward amalgamating the same into our methodologies for impactful educational outcomes.”

GEMS Education said regular drills for arrival and dispersal of students were conducted to ensure that safe distances are maintained even during times of high volume movement. Image Credit: Supplied

Ambika Gilati of the Millennium School said, “All COVID-19 protocols as issued by regulatory authorities are in place, staff is 98.3 per cent vaccinated and regular drills for arrival and dispersal of students were conducted to ensure that safe distances are maintained even during times of high volume movement. Break time as well as transitions between classes will be monitored stringently by our teachers to ensure distancing. We look forward to hearing classes full of laughter and animated voices ringing out.” 

Relieved parents

Parents too heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Deepak Kumar, father of Ananya Raj Gupta, Grade 10 D, at the Indian High School, said: “It’s a new beginning for the Gen Next to back in their class rooms. As parents, safety and well-being of our ward is our prime concern and we have full confidence in the school management. It is our prime duty to cooperate and adhere to the safety guidelines.”

Priya Suresh, another parent, said, “I am so very glad that my son Siddarth Pokala studying in Grade 6 is back in school after 18 months. This is the moment my kid spent fantasising about, over the past year and a half. Thanks to KHDA and the UAE Ministry of Education for the wise decision. The excitement that I see in my son’s eyes to meet his friends and teachers, knows no bounds.”

A third parent Aishwarya Jeet Singh said, “We all are super excited to see the children going back into the school environment. I believe online education can never match up to the classroom environment. Classrooms give the platform for a human touch and enable children to express their emotions.”