Parents in Dubai welcome the end of distance learning, but some have mixed feelings

All private school pupils in Dubai will return to in-person classes on October 3

Parents in Dubai have supported the plan for schools to end all distance learning in October.

They said it was important for children to return to school as they were missing interaction with classmates and teachers, which was affecting their social skills.

But a few families in the emirate told The National they had questions about how schools would manage a safe return for pupils in October.

All pupils at Dubai's private schools must return to classrooms on October 3, the Dubai Government Media Office announced this week.

Maddy Apostol, 36, a home maker, said she would ensure her nine-year-old daughter was vaccinated before returning to in-person learning.

“I am happy that all children have been allowed to go to school for face-to-face learning but I am worried," Ms Apostol said.

“Last year, I knew most of the parents had chosen distance learning. With 100 per cent pupils back, we are getting our daughter vaccinated tomorrow."

Ms Apostol expects her daughter to receive the Sinopharm vaccine.

A third-year pupil at a private school, the child studied remotely last year but will go back to in-person classes on Sunday.

“I feel confident sending her back to school now as so many people in the country are vaccinated including all the staff at the school” Ms Apostol said.

She was concerned because she did not yet know how many pupils would be in her daughter's class.

School vehicles can run at full capacity, as long as they are ventilated and cleaned after journeys, according to the new protocols.

Last year, capacity for school buses was capped at 50 per cent.

Ms Apostol said she was considering transport alternatives for her daughter.

She said she was being cautious as her daughter had been infected with the coronavirus in March.

Despite this, she said was happy to send her daughter back to in-person classes.

Ms Apostol said her child would go to school for three days a week and then study from home on the other two during the first five weeks of the new term.

“I see the impact of having no interaction with peers on my child," she said.

“There was no social connection and her behaviour changed especially when it came to talking to people.

“Being at home most of the time in front of a screen, she would rather use her iPad or play games than talk to people.”

Health authorities said 96 per cent of Dubai's private schoolteachers had been vaccinated, and 70 per cent of children aged 12 to 17 received coronavirus shots.

Nisha Kumar, an Indian psychiatrist and mother of one in Dubai, said on-site learning was important for children.

Her five-year-old son, who goes to Deira International School, returned to in-person classes last year.

“Being around grown-ups is not enough. My son needs to be around and play with someone his age so that they can explore things together," Ms Kumar said.

“I can be his mother and his teacher but I don’t have the professional qualification to be one. I can only teach him what the teacher tells me to.

“I thought his handwriting was not OK but the teacher said he was doing a great job. Even if I correct him, I may do it the wrong way."

At the end of last term, just 52 per cent of private school pupils in Dubai were in classrooms, and the rest opted to study from home.

The mother said children should be in schools.

“If I am taking him to the mall and the play areas, so why not school?”

“This [the pandemic] is not going to go away in the next year or so."

While taking precautions, she encouraged parents to send their children to school.

Ola Uwaezu, 32, a home maker and mother of two girls aged 4 and 6, said she supported the plan to get all pupils back to school.

“I am for it 100 per cent. My daughters were attending classes in person last year," Ms Uwaezu said.

It was important for pupils to meet their friends, she said.

"I was apprehensive initially but the schools followed all the protocols," Ms Uwaezu said.

"My younger daughter was in nursery, where protocols were very stringent."

She said her children were placed in bubbles at school and there was no mixing, so she felt they were safe.

"I would not get my children vaccinated at this age," she said.

She has been trying to ensure her children do not develop social anxiety by taking them out for walks and having conversations with them about the virus.

Heads of schools welcomed the plan to begin in-person classes in October.

Simon Crane, the headmaster at Brighton College Dubai, said even innovative online learning could not replicate human-to-human connection.

"When you have a screen and technology there are natural barriers to learning," he said.

"Yes you might be able to teach some academics, but the social and emotional development of pupils, you can only really achieve that by having human connection."

Shiny Davison, academic director at Gulf Model School, said some parents were concerned about a full return.

For the first five weeks of the term, the school will follow a blended learning model.

"All pupils will come back in October and we know this has to happen. There is reluctance from some parents. I cannot deny that," she said.

"We are already getting phone calls and emails from parents.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 08 SEPTEMBER 2020.  Affordable schools in Dubai. The Gulf Model School where fees range from Dh350-Dh650 per month located in Al Muhaisinah 4. Shiny Davison, director of learning at Gulf Model School in Dubai. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.

"There are some parents who visited the school to talk to us about this."

"We are trying to explain to them that there is a sanitisation programme at the school, and teachers have been vaccinated.

"I think we can resolve these issues and come back to a full opening of schools."

Updated: August 26th 2021, 4:00 AM