Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 24 September 2020

Back to school: Parents and pupils excited at return of in-person lessons

At the start of a very different school year, most parents say being back in a classroom is good for mental health of children

The first day back at school is typically marked by teary goodbyes, as nervous pupils cling to their parents and refuse to let go.

But this year there were few tears, as pupils aged three to 18, walked back happily into classrooms albeit metres apart and in neat socially-distanced queues.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils started returning to schools in the UAE today after months of distance learning.

Schools closed in March to curb the spread of Covid-19, while parents stepped in to help children navigate distance learning.

Abu Dhabi and Sharjah are to stagger the return to classes, while in Dubai all schools can open from Sunday.

About 200 pupils returned for in-person classes at American Academy for Girls in Al Mizhar, Dubai.

Shaikha Amiri, an Emirati mother of a six-year-old, said her daughter was excited to be back.

"My daughter has been studying online since March and I thought she needed face-to-face classes," said Ms Amiri.

"When she was studying remotely, it was difficult as I had to spend a lot of time teaching my child."

Ghada Eid, an Egyptian stay-at-home mother at the same school, said: "My five-year-old daughter is in kindergarten and is excited to be back at school.

My daughter hasn't seen any of her friends

since March and is so happy to be in the classroom

Ghada Eid

"She hasn’t seen any of her friends since March so she is happy to be in the classroom.

"Being in school for in-person lessons is important, especially at this age as the children want to interact."

It was also a busy morning at Horizon International School in Dubai. The school has about 1,100 pupils enrolled in foundation, primary and secondary, of which ninety-two per cent will be re-joining campus in phases this week. Isaam Shibany said his daughter Layla, a foundation stage two pupil, had been eager to return to classroom learning.

"I think she’s had enough of staying at home," he said. "We do trust the process the school has taken to keep the children and staff safe."

More than 800 pupils have chosen to return to school over e-learning at Brighton College Abu Dhabi – this is about 76 per cent of the pupils who were eligible to return.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 30, 2020. Children return to school on Sunday after months off due to the Covid-19 pandemic at the Brighton College, Abu Dhabi. -- Stephen Haw and sons, Hugo, nine and Hector, seven. Victor Besa /The National Section: NA Reporter: Haneen Dajani
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, August 30, 2020. Children return to school on Sunday after months off due to the Covid-19 pandemic at the Brighton College, Abu Dhabi. -- Stephen Haw and sons, Hugo, nine and Hector, seven. Victor Besa /The National Section: NA Reporter: Haneen Dajani

Stephen Haw, a father of four, whose sons were allowed to return to school, said it was "an absolute relief, I’ve got balloons out, we are having a party".

The 42-year-old Briton dropped his son Hugo, 9, and Hector, 7, to Brighton College Abu Dhabi on Sunday.

“It’s way better than e-learning,” said Hugo. "[but] I am not OK with this mask, it makes me sweat like crazy."

His younger brother Hector was as excited to be back.

"I am going to have fun, say hi to my friends and ask my teacher questions," said Hector.

He said he "hated" e-learning because it was "stressful and really hard".

Also at Brighton, Anna Ascher, a mother of four, said she had to buy a treadmill to let her children release their energy during the stay-at-home period.

"Each had a slot of at least 20 minutes and it had to be on speed six and above, just walking was not enough," said the 46-year-old housewife from New Zealand.

Only two of her sons Johnny, 9, and Tommy, 5, were able to return to school on Sunday. Her 11-year-old and three-year-old had to continue studying from home for now.

Updated: August 30, 2020 03:44 PM

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