Abu Dhabi: After a nine-day long break, more than 1 million schoolchildren across the UAE will return to school on May 9. As a result of the Eid break, as well as the shorter school hours over Ramadan, most children have become used to a relaxed routine. Parents should therefore work to reset bedtimes and ensure that children are ready for the last leg of academics before the summer break, educators urged.
“During Ramadan, the school days were short, followed by the Eid break. During these weeks, students have become aware of their learning gaps. We now look forward to longer school days. Days will be enriched with different learning experiences, after a gap of nearly two years. Students are more than excited to spend long hours at school,” Manjeet Ahluwalia, head of the primary section at Dunes International School in Abu Dhabi told Gulf News.
Recent experiences with school closures and erratic timetables during the COVID-19 pandemic made children even more resilient to changes in routine.
“Our children are extremely adaptable and resilient. They have coped with so many changes this year, like occasional shifts to distance learning and the change to a Saturday-Sunday weekend. We are confident that reverting to pre-Ramadan school hours will be no different,” said Emma Shanahan, principal at Aspen Heights British School.
During Ramadan, schools in the UAE shorten their hours to help children and educators who are fasting and engaging in night-worship. Compared to a five-hour Ramadan school day, schools normally stay open for six or seven hours on a regular day.
Switching to a proper bedtime and sticking to it is one of the most important elements to help children adapt to regular school hours. The tail end of the Eid break can present the perfect opportunity to move up bedtimes ahead of school.
“Families can help by ensuring their children have proper rest and recreation time. This may be a physical activity away from screens or other mind-calming activities before bedtime. Most children need between nine to 11 hours of sleep every night. Our school day starts early, so I would advise you work backwards from the time your child needs to get up. If they need to get up at 6am, they should be asleep between 8pm and 9pm,” Shanahan said.
A well-balanced diet rich in fibre and nutrients is also essential to help children adjust easily to the change in routine. Older children should also set up their daily schedules in a way that allows for adequate rest, study and play, Ahluwalia recommended.
“Initially, children may have some difficulty concentrating or may need more time to get back into the routine of learning. It is important for parents and educators to provide opportunities for children to take breaks, to move around and to re-connect with their friends and peers. It is also the right time to work on any identified learning gaps, she said.
Schools in Abu Dhabi will also resume large-school sport activities and events, after a two-year suspension following the pandemic. While these restrictions were lifted before Ramadan, most schools only offered low-impact physical education during Ramadan.
“PE [physical education] lessons continued during Ramadan as it is critical for positive mental and physical health. Mindful of children’s needs, we provided less energetic physical activities, which included orienteering and archery, as part of the curriculum,” Shanahan said, adding that the school will offer regular PE lessons when school resumes on Monday.
A number of students are themselves looking at how they can be at their best after the Eid break.
“I’ll need to fix my sleeping hours, study and get used to eating more, so that I have enough energy. I am also re-organising my supplies in preparation for school. Things will, however, be easier in certain ways, because we’ll have more time to study and to revise before the end-of-year exams,” said Joud Melhem, a Year 5 student at GEMS Royal Dubai School.