Many who flew to India for their summer holidays unable to return, schools and community groups say
Pupils and teachers hit by Kerala floods call for UAE school term delay as families are stuck in camps
Indians living in the UAE have called for the start of this year’s school term to be delayed as an estimated 30,000 families are stuck in Kerala after the recent floods.
Parents and teachers alike have appealed for understanding from schools and the education authorities given the impact the disaster has had on lives and infrastructure.
Cochin International Airport, the Indian state’s transport centre, is closed until Wednesday, making it impossible for many residents to return to the Emirates.
The trauma of the emergency, in which more than 400 people have died, has also led to calls for delaying the school term to allow pupils more time to recover.
Schools return on Sunday, September 2 and many teachers are required to report for duty this week.
Puthur Rahman, head of the Kerala Muslim Cultural Centre and the Indian Association in Fujairah, said he has asked India’s ambassador to the UAE to lobby schools to postpone term time by a week.
“There are more than 30,000 families from the UAE, including 10,000 children, currently in the emergency camps set up in Kerala as a result of the flooding,” said Mr Rahman, who has been involved in aid and relief efforts.
"Parents and teachers have all been contacting me and telling me how their children are in these camps, and that it will take them time to get home.
"Even my house was affected by the floods. We’ve been cleaning it out for the last three days and having to watch out for snakes that have taken shelter there as the flood water rose.”
Kerala, a popular destination among tourists seeking dramatic coastlines and unspoilt beaches, has been battered by record monsoon rains this year.
Roads were ripped up by the flooding, while mobile phone networks were destroyed and more than one million people displaced.
Many died in the tragedy or their homes were buried by landslides triggered by the continuing downpours.
The result has left many UAE residents who flew out to India to enjoy their summer holiday stranded and unable to make the journey home. An estimated 80,000 Indian children attend schools in Dubai alone.
One Indian teacher, who teaches social studies in Dubai, said she was still stranded in Ernakulam, Kerala.
The 52-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said many of her Indian colleagues had flown to Kerala to be with their families during Eid.
"Many parts of the state depend on Kochi Airport but it’s not due to reopen until August 29,” she said.
“Almost all passengers are having ticket problems – especially when it comes to buying one-way tickets for some reason.
“A one-way ticket to Dubai next month costs Dh307 (5,854 rupees) but to fly on August 30 costs Dh2,099 (40,000 rupees).
“But if teachers don’t attend school on opening day, their salaries are deducted. If I’m not there I’ll lose one month’s salary.
"We're seeing devastation all around us so the situation is horrible. People are not getting drinking water. People are still lost.
“In some areas only the frames of houses are still standing. I think schools should postpone opening day by one week so we can all get tickets back. So many pupils are here. This has been a national disaster.”
Anthony Joseph, principal of Sharjah Indian School for boys, was in Kerala and managed to return to Dubai on Sunday.
“We have had parents and teachers writing to us about this, with most of the requests for postponing term time coming from teachers,” he said.
“They either want more holiday leave or a delay to our term. Unfortunately, the sorts of trauma we’ve heard children experiencing will mean it could be a long time before things return to normal for them.
“When I was there I saw huge rocks sitting in the middle of the road that had been swept down by landslides.
"We’re trying to provide support to our staff. Teachers are supposed to start work on August 29 but we’re allowing some to start later.”