Abu Dhabi: There was palpable excitement in the air on Monday as a million schoolchildren, dressed in neatly pressed clothes and newly shined shoes, carried their colourful backpacks and lunchboxes and returned to their classrooms across the UAE after the long two-month summer break.
Schools reported a smooth start to the first day of the new term.
For the majority of schools, today was the first of the 2022-2023 academic year. Students were therefore both excited and nervous, as well as happy to meet their friends after a lengthy summer vacation.
For some, Monday also marked the first time ever they were going to a school. Many parents, who were otherwise headed to work, had therefore taken some time off to accompany these newest learners to their classrooms.
Schools were well-prepared to welcome their newest learners, with banners and balloons decking up school hallways and entrances. There was a sea of happy faces all round, especially as schools were able to finally open after two years under relaxed COVID-19 measures.
Following extensive preparations by traffic authorities, no major traffic delays were reported, even as thousands of buses and parents plied the roads to get children to and from school. Both Abu Dhabi Police and Dubai Police had also urged motorists to come to a complete stop when encountering the ‘Stop’ sign displayed by school buses when children board or disembark from buses.
This term, authorities have relaxed COVID-19 precautionary measures across UAE schools, including scrapping social distancing requirements. Students must still wear masks in indoor spaces, but schools are now allowed to organise regular events and sports. In addition, only children aged 12 years and older had to present a negative PCR test result to enter school premises in Abu Dhabi and at public schools across the country.
Ready for new challenges
“I’m a little bit nervous because it’s a new year and I’m starting my GCSEs, but I’m excited to be back with my friends and see what the future holds,” Omar S, a Year 10 student at the Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.
His friend, Omar M, added that he felt prepared for the new year.
“After a long year of hard work last year, I enjoyed a relaxing summer holiday. After every summer rest, we need to be ready for another new year of hard work. And I feel ready and prepared for the new challenges ahead. I’m excited and delighted to be back,” he said.
Excitement all around
Suraj Dayma, a Grade 12 student at Global Indian International School in Abu Dhabi, said he was looking forward to a host of things.
“I am excited to meet my friends, and organise and participate in the upcoming school events. Hopefully with better weather, I am also looking forward to playing more outdoor sports in the coming weeks,” he said.
Pakistani father Farhan Mirza, whose three year old daughter Ayra Mirza attended school at Wesgreen International School Sharjah, said the first day of FS1 was a successful one.
“My daughter came back home happy. We are so happy she had such a good time. As parents, we were eagerly looking forward to our daughter’s first day at school. We even changed our routine by retiring to bed early to get sufficient sleep in order to wake up on time for her first day. We hope it will be a wonderful next stage of Ayra’s life,” he said.
Teachers echoed the students’ enthusiasm on the first day of the school term.
The Indian High Group of Schools welcomed more than 13,000 students for the new term and year. The students were greeted and cheered along from the entry points, buses, playing fields and onto the classrooms by their school leaders and teachers. Welcome bands, placards created a festive back to school look at the IHS premises. From flash dance mobs, and busker style singers and musicians, the back-to-school celebrations went a notch high up this year for the school.
“I know that the teachers did some intense planning to set up a perfect welcome for their students today. And it seems to have succeeded exceedingly well and they are really enthused. The entire campus wears a festive look and is enveloped in a spirit of oneness and bonhomie. That for us, is the focus and purpose of our operations at this school,” Punit MK Vasu, CEO, The Indian High Group of Schools, Dubai, told Gulf News.
In Abu Dhabi, GEMS World Academy also saw a real sense of anticipation and joy as it welcomed children to its new campus on Al Reem Island.
“As parents left their cherished ones at school for their first day, the staff and teachers of the school took the new learners onboard with love and care. That was our focus for the day,” said school principal Kelvin Hornsby.
“I can’t begin to express the genuine excitement shared by all staff about the opportunities and possibilities for teaching and learning development for this new academic year. Returning to school with fewer COVID-19 safety measures has now allowed us to focus all of our time and energy on our core purpose- creating engaging, exciting and effective learning experiences to enable your children to thrive. We have so many plans, and we can’t wait to share them with our children and our community,” said Emma Shanahan, principal of Aspen Heights British School in Abu Dhabi.
At The Aquila School in Dubai, colourful parrot mascots greeted families and students.
“At The Aquila School, we aim to provide a happy and safe learning experience for every child, and our [parrot] mascots go a long way in making this a reality. We see joy on each pupil’s face as they come through the school gates to meet the parrots, and this tells us we are doing something right. As well as making everyone smile and supporting the wellbeing of our community, there is a more serious learning focus to our mascots. One of our priorities this year is looking at learning skills and the first of these is collaboration and we know that parrots are very collaborative birds,” said Wayne Howsen, school principal.
“In preparation for our first day, our Family Happiness Team set up information booths across the school to ensure that our families and students have everything they need, and when they need it – from lanyards, transport information, registration requirements, accounts questions, etc,” said Jason King, principal at the Regent International School.
Family Happiness Teams were also present at the Sunmarke School in Dubai.
“As part of the induction, when parents arrive for their child’s first day at our school, the school’s Family Happiness Team is on hand to provide a bespoke service helping anxious parents to navigate their way through the many elements that need to be in place for their child” said Dr Neil Hopkin, executive principal at Fortes Education.