Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 24 November 2020

To pupils, parents and teachers: happy summer staycation

A student studies from home following school closures due to the pandemic. AFP
A student studies from home following school closures due to the pandemic. AFP

At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, it would have been unfathomable for all pupils and students to transfer their studies to the confines of their homes. Yet the coronavirus pandemic has forced both parents and their children to work and study remotely, and to adapt to a new situation.

As the school year comes to an end, it is worth reflecting on lessons learnt during lockdown, and bracing for the next cycle. Schools across the UAE closed their doors to students and staff alike in March as part of the nation’s drive to curb the spread of the coronavirus. It has been a challenging time for parents, many of whom are now working from home and homeschooling their children at the same time.

While the economic ramification of the coronavirus has brought its fair share of financial hardships, most schools have not lowered their fees to ease the burden. Most parents have incurred high costs even as students no longer benefit from the wide range of activities, facilities and educational support they were once offered. The government has stepped in, offering aid to struggling families, but private schools must also be more understanding of the situation.

The last four months have been difficult for educators, too. Many teachers have seen their salaries reduced or their jobs lost altogether. In Sharjah, authorities have instructed private schools to pay teachers’ salaries in full and to refund any deductions made because of the pandemic. At a time when misinformation abounds, the role of teachers in our societies to show children how to distinguish truth from falsehoods becomes all the more important. Educators play a main role in guiding the post-Covid-19 generation to be responsible and to trust science. Their work must be valued, especially now.

Teachers, pupils and parents deserve respect and praise for “passing the test” of Covid-19, in the words of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. Yesterday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid gave thanks to the future generation and to those supporting its development. “Thank you for your studiousness,” he wrote on Twitter. “Thanks to your fathers and mothers, your dedicated teachers and the Ministry of Education team.”

Studying from home has not been easy for all. Movement restrictions have cut off pupils from their peers at a crucial time in their psychological development. But thanks to modern technology, children and adults can connect with friends and family and pursue their education remotely. Governments in the UAE and the Gulf have thrown their weight behind online classes, making them a success.

At a time when misinformation abounds, the role of teachers in our societies to show children how to distinguish truth from falsehoods becomes all the more important

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said in many other parts of the Middle East. In some countries, slow internet and poor connectivity have hindered remote learning. Nations must continue to support one another as the world emerges from the crisis so that children are not denied access to education as a result of Covid-19 outbreaks and poor infrastructure. Citizens and residents of the UAE are fortunate to live in a nation where no child misses out on their education, even amidst a pandemic.

Summer holidays have only just begun, but many are already concerned about the school year to come. It is still unclear whether it will be safe for physical classes to resume in September, but education will continue, whether in the digital world or in person. In the meantime, The National wishes everyone a happy summer staycation.

Updated: July 2, 2020 07:12 PM

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