x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Parents uneasy about prompt start

Most parents remained concerned yesterday about private schools reopening immediately after the summer holidays, despite new federal advice against any delay due to swine flu.

ABU DHABI // Most parents remained concerned yesterday about private schools reopening immediately after the summer holidays, despite new federal advice against any delay due to swine flu. At a meeting yesterday of education and health authorities in the capital, schools were advised not to postpone the start of the term and not to shut unless swine flu was severe and widespread. Some parents applauded the Government's new strategy, which is to keep schools open and send sick children home for a week, but others believed more drastic measures were required.

"I feel that the schools should open a bit later," said Twinkle Stanislaus, whose eight-year-old son is a pupil at Dubai Modern High School. She said she would keep him at home for the first week of term. "People will be coming back from holiday, so to be on the safe side it's better that they reopen later." Michelle Payawal, whose son goes to Abu Dhabi Grammar School, was also in favour of postponing the start of classes to provide a quarantine period for children who had been abroad.

But she said she would not want her son to stay off school for more than a week. "Seven days is enough," she said, adding that keeping children home for longer would be inconvenient for parents. "Children would get bored." Another mother, who gave her name only as Mary, said she believed there was no need for schools to overreact, and postponement would have little effect on children's health. "Keeping the schools closed wouldn't help us or our children. They have to make sure that conditions in the schools are sanitary," she said.

"I have just been in the UK and even there I don't think that they decided to close the schools, even though it had spread quite a bit," she said. "Swine flu is here to stay." Another mother, who asked to remain anonymous, criticised the Government for not having a policy in place when private schools started to open last week. "We are not sure what kind of screening is going to be done, what is going to happen. We have to just wait and watch and that is something that we are not happy about."

She said she had read reports that the Government had a plan but "it's all very vague". She intended to keep her children off school for a week. She argued that many families were returning from India and other places where swine flu was widespread. "From the school's side, I would want them to open a week later, so that all those children who come back, they can be screened, or you give them some time to settle down at home, so if they do develop symptoms they don't spread it.

"School becomes a very vulnerable place for all the kids." klewis@thenational.ae