School chiuldren fasting
Wdeema Hamdan AlMehrzi with her brother (left), and Khaleel Gibran. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Private schools across the UAE have started their new term this week, coinciding with the last third of Ramadan. After a two-week break, the school day is shorter for students, and typically lasts just four to six hours.

Thousands of fasting children are therefore able to attend classes while fulfilling their Ramadan fasts.

Schools have also set up special Ramadan corners, and are dedicating lessons to share the values of spirituality, sacrifice and empathy that are an essential part of the holy month. Students are then able to learn about the benefits of fasting and charity in the company of their friends.

The entire experience of schooling in Ramadan is ushering in a general sense of camaraderie within the community.

Connecting with others

“I am grateful that I have the chance to celebrate my faith and connect with others in a meaningful way. I appreciate the opportunity to continue my studies and learn new things while observing my religious obligations. I also value the sense of community and support that I feel at school as I share the experience of Ramadan with my peers,” Alishba Khan, a Grade 9 student at GEMS Wesgreen International School – Sharjah, told Gulf News.

“I feel great, because at school, time flies while we are learning, so I feel less tired, and fasting is easier. I am also so glad to see all my friends. At school, we [get to] enjoy fun activities while fasting,” added Wdeema Hamdan AlMehrzi, a Year 6 student at GEMS World Academy – Abu Dhabi.

First day experiences

Most schools kicked off the new term on Monday, and will continue with classes until the Eid break.

“The first day at school was filled with fervour and excitement. It is indeed a wonderful feeling to meet your extended family in school. On this occasion of the Holy month, we are being enlightened on the key aspects of Ramadan, and strengthening our understanding of the land we live in. We also [make it a point to] follow the Prophetic values of tolerance and harmony,” said Khaleel Gibran, a Grade 12 student at Dunes International School.

This year, children were able to observe more than the first half of Ramadan while on their spring break. The return to school, even with fewer hours, can allow some tiredness to set it.

“Overall, my first day back to school during Ramadan was a time of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt a sense of joy and connection as I reunited with my classmates and teachers after a long break. On the other hand, I felt [some of] the physical and emotional toll of fasting during the day, which [can make it difficult to] focus in class,” Khan said.

Making fasting easier

With a view of easing the days of fasting, schools have reduced the frequency of physical education classes. Many institutions also allow fasting children to skip certain strenuous activities, even if they attend physical education.

There is also an overall focus on sharing with the underprivileged.

“The entire Dunes family together to partake in an act of sharing and giving. [We are running] a charity drive in the school campus to collect everyday necessities, which will be distributed to the support staff. The message of “Service Before Self” has been planned once again by the young Dunites [to encourage] contributions to society,” said Paramjit Ahluwalia, principal and director at Dunes International School.

“Due to the Ramadan timings chosen by the majority of our parent community and put in place already before the spring break, students and teachers very quickly settled back into the routine today. Each year, we think carefully about how to support our pupils and their families during Ramadan.

“While continuing to teach the full curriculum, we give consideration to this time, taking into account pupil activities and parent events, always with Ramadan in mind. For Muslim families in our community, Ramadan represents an important time of the year and we are very excited about our upcoming interfaith community Iftar on Thursday evening,” said Tara Foster, primary headteacher at GEMS Metropole School - Motor City.