x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A new term begins as the summer draws to a close

As a new school year begins, the memories of summer will quickly fade

Many parents across the UAE can be forgiven if this morning they breathe a short, guilty sigh of relief. Their children will have gone back to school and another summer will have evaporated. It has been a long summer, made longer, perhaps, by the timing of Ramadan. Certainly, the holy month didn't make the outside any cooler, but perhaps cooled and calmed stressed hearts for four weeks.

The summer months are always difficult, either because of coordinating foreign trips or because of the rather more arduous task of entertaining excitable and energetic children for long periods of time. Many schools have been shut for nine weeks this summer, some will not reopen for a few more days.

From today, however, they begin to return. Over the coming days, schools across the country will reopen their doors, and children will rush into these educational institutions to greet old friends, make new ones, and regale both with tales of shopping trips and "boring" family travels.

They return to a partially changed UAE. The residency decree mandating that employees of the Abu Dhabi Government and related companies must live within the emirate of Abu Dhabi comes into force today, bringing tens of thousands of new people and thousands of new children to the capital. In addition to a calmer Sheikh Zayed Road, there will also be calmer parents, who won't need to see their children off to school before making the long drive to Abu Dhabi.

In other ways, too, the landscape of the city will have changed. Public schools have increased their capacity and other schools will open: next week, Repton School Abu Dhabi will welcome schoolchildren for the first time on its new campus on Al Reem island.

By this evening, many parents will have forgotten the summer holidays, such is the relativity of time that accompanies raising children.

The excitable stories will come tumbling out over the dinner table, as schoolchildren recount the gossip that a return to school brings. There will be new names to recall, new cities that need to be visited, new activities that need to be experienced and, doubtless, new gadgets that need to be paid for.

With that, the routine of the nation's parents will have been restored, and the familiar cycle of school uniforms, homework and extra-curricular activities will begin again. Welcome back, parents. Welcome too, to those who now call Abu Dhabi their home for the first time.