Dubai: After two weeks off for spring break, students on Sunday returned to school – some virtually – for the third and final term of this academic year. For India and Pakistani schools, the return marks the beginning of their new academic year.
Yellow school buses once again took children to school where classrooms filled with their chatter. Rebecca Coulter, Vice Principal, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, said the school witnessed a near-perfect attendance first day back.
“It was lovely to see all of our staff and children back in school today. Most seem to have enjoyed a relaxing spring break, and everyone is eager to get back to school to see friends and colleagues. Attendance was excellent and in line with our normal expectations, with 98 per cent of our children in the building,” she added.
Coulter said she is also “very pleased to note” that many of the school’s longer-term distance learning students have returned to school for in-class learning again as of Sunday. Across the school, they have less than five per cent of students who remain on distance learning.
Speaking about this final term, she added: “Although our exam year students are disappointed not to be sitting formal GCSE and A-Level exams this term, we have a comprehensive programme of in-school assessments for them to ensure that they receive a fair and representative grade.”
In Sharjah, students have returned to direct classes for the first time since schools had moved to full distance mode in February. Some pupils are continuing with distance learning while others are doing blended learning.
GEMS Education tweeted on Sunday: “We’re happy to welcome our #GEMSEducation students #backtoschool for the start of a new academic term. We’ve been preparing all our schools for a safe return to school and face-to-face learning, we’re especially pleased to see our Sharjah students back on-site.”
‘A good rise’
At Credence High School, Dubai, student attendance saw “a good rise” with almost half of the pupils attending the onsite learning at the Indian school, said CEO-Principal Deepika Thapar Singh.
“Indeed the first day after the spring break and the beginning of the new academic session 2021-22 was filled with excitement as the children once again got to be in their classrooms, meet their teachers and friends,” she added.
Last year, around 20 per cent of Credence students had opted for face-to-face learning – less than half the current rate. “This is definitely a positive sign,” Singh said.
“We are glad to see that our corridors, classrooms and the playground are filling up with children back again. It is that sense of satisfaction that life is getting back to normal gradually and safely. More and more parents are enquiring for face0to-face learning and we are sure the number will rise soon.”
Dr Heena Rachh, Principal, Global Indian International School, Abu Dhabi, said government safety measures have led to more students joining direct schools at the school.
She added: “The robust safety measures implemented by ADEK , the multiple layers of safety measures — from testing to vaccination and stern procedures — has enhanced confidence and encouraged an increase in the number of GIIS, Abu Dhabi students who have resumed their classes from [Sunday] after the spring break."
The school has given the option for both online classes and on-campus learning. "Our senior grade students opted for face-to-face lessons have either taken the jab or the PCR tests. They have also submitted Health Declaration Form and Declaration of Understanding to the Health and Safety Department of our school.
"The vaccination drive and the PCR tests for older children are certainly implanting a sense of safety in all of us, as students return for in-class lessons.”
Mohammad Ali Kottakkulam, Principal, Gulf Indian High School Dubai, said the school had earlier conducted surveys "to consolidate the parental option" on the mode of learning in the first term of the new academic year (which began earlier this month for the school). At Gulf Indian High, though the percentage of those who are expressing interest for blended learning has gone up, most parents have opted for distance learning.
Call for vaccination
"It is an appreciable fact that the vaccination drive has boosted the confidence of people regarding adult safety, but the confidence levels of parents about the safety of children needs to be boosted yet. As a school, we are also encouraging students aged 16 and above to get vaccinated to see that all our senior class students would soon opt for face-to-face learning," Kottakkulam said.
Paramjit Ahluwalia, principal at Dunes International School Abu Dhabi, was himself very excited to welcome the students on the first day of the new term. For Indian curriculum schools, today marks the first day of the 2021-2022 academic year.
“My excitement knew no bounds. On the first day of the new year, I was overjoyed myself, and could clearly see the hope, positivity, charm and joy on the faces of our students and the staff. These are different times but I firmly believe that we are on the right track to meet the end of this pandemic. I request all families to adhere to the safety protocols laid down by the authorities. Our educational journey will continue with utmost zeal and enthusiasm at Dunes International School,” he said.
Neha Nasser, a Grade 6 student at the school, said her first day had been joyous. “School, here I come, I thought to myself in the morning,” Nasser said, indicating her excitement at the start of a new term and schoolyear
With inputs by Samihah Zaman, Senior Reporter