Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 20 September 2020

UAE parents adjust to new rules as children return to school

Hundreds of thousands of pupils in the country returned to face-to-face and online classes on August 30

Timing pickup and drop-offs, adjusting to last-minute changes and preparing children for a new type of classroom were some of the challenges parents faced over the first two weeks of the academic school year.

Thousands of pupils returned to school in late August after months of learning from home. To guarantee the safety of children and staff, a series of safety measures were implemented. These included mandatory face masks, pupil “bubbles” and limiting activities that involved gatherings.

Parents who elected to send their children to school, rather than continue e-learning for the first term, said adjusting to the new procedures has taken some getting used to.

Catia Makano, from Brazil, said she struggled to maintain physical distancing from other parents when dropping off and picking up her daughter, 7, at Raha International School.

We had to make [our daughter] understand the new rules and to show her school would still be fun even in the new environment

Catia Makano

Education authorities in Abu Dhabi banned parents from entering schools to limit potential exposure to the virus.

To adjust, the school introduced a 45-minute window for the drop-off but, for pick ups, parents have to wait outside while maintaining social distancing, Ms Makano said.

"More parents are using their cars instead of the bus as they believe it's safe and nobody is car pooling, which can lead to congestion during pickup and drop-off times,” she said.

"At the pickup time it was a challenge since all the parents arrived just before the classes finished. Parents are not allowed inside the building and everyone was trying to avoid being near each other and I could see some parents were very concerned.”

Catia Makano, a banker in Abu Dhabi from Brazil, with her seven-year-old daughter. Courtesy: Catia Makano
Catia Makano, a banker in Abu Dhabi from Brazil, with her seven-year-old daughter. Courtesy: Catia Makano

Covid-19 has effected every industry differently, including education, and safety measures are being frequently adjusted accordingly.

Ms Makano said her daughter’s school sent their initial reopening plan to parents at the end of July but it has since changed a few times.

"Two weeks before going back to school, authorities sent a new set of reopening rules which mentioned that children over the age of 11 had to study at home. Before we could get acquainted with the new set of rules, things had changed again.”

She said it was frustrating for parents who were planning to send their children back to school but had to suddenly factor in having to oversee distance learning from home.

"Many parents had planned for a full return to the office and had to step back because of this,” Ms Makano said.

Alicia Hol, from Australia, also dealt with several changes from her daughters’ school in Dubai.

Her girls, aged nine to 14, resumed in-person classes from Sunday.

Brooke Hol returned to school for face-to-face classes on August 30. Courtesy: Alicia Hol
Brooke Hol returned to school for face-to-face classes on August 30. Courtesy: Alicia Hol

"The biggest thing I have struggled with are last-minute changes and ensuring I have sent the right forms for each child. The volume of information that came in was overwhelming,” said Ms Hol.

"Also, teachers were asked to do their Covid-19 tests, which meant several schools did not open on the date they were supposed to.”

Preparing their children for the new regulations and teaching them the importance of keeping their face masks on, regularly washing hands and maintaining distance from their friends was crucial.

"We had to explain to our daughter that the school was not going to be the same as it was earlier," said Ms Makano.

“We had to make her understand the new rules and to show her school would still be fun even in the new environment.”

The adjustment has limited pupils’ social interaction at school, troubling parents who worry it will have an adverse effect on their children’s mental and emotional development.

Clementina Kongslund, 42, a Romanian resident of Dubai, said the first few days were difficult on her two children.

"The children were not allowed to play together and they have to sit at their desks the entire time. They can go out during the physical education lessons but are in classrooms the rest of the day.”

"I would like them to have some kind of interaction with other children.”

She said she has asked her children, aged seven and 10, if they would prefer to return to distance learning.

"I will let them do so if they feel uncomfortable at school."

Updated: September 11, 2020 10:05 AM

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