'There was a spark in her eyes': Dubai parents relieved to have children back in school

Pupils say they were thrilled to get back to class after mostly remote learning last term

Deepa Khanna with her son Dhruv Khanna at Delhi Private School Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
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Parents and pupils spoke of their relief at the return to normal classes on Sunday after almost 18 months of disruption caused by the pandemic.

On-off remote learning and school closures last term led to interrupted learning and exam cancellations.

So pupils across the country were thrilled as they returned from the school holidays to see teachers and friends.

"There was a spark in her eyes when we told our daughter that she will be going back to school," said Umesh Nihalani, whose daughter, Anushree, 7, started second grade at Delhi Private School, Dubai.

"For my daughter, going to school is normal even if online learning is the new normal," he said.

"Pupils have missed being in class. The screen cannot replace being in class."

Khyati Nihalani, Anushree's mother, said children missed out on interactions at school.

"I wanted the school to open so that she [Anushree] could meet children her age and normal life could resume for her."

Anushree said she was "most excited to meet my friends and run races during physical education".

Older pupils facing their final exams and the path to university also had hopes for a normal final year. Some pupils, including those at government schools, have a staggered return but are all back in October.

Gayathri Ramani with her son Aditya Iyer and her daughter Anju Iyer. Antonie Robertson / The National

“It’s my last year in school. Until now some pupils were online and others were studying offline but now all the class will be back in October," said Dhruv Khanna, 16, a Grade 12 pupil.

Deepa Khanna, Dhruv’s mother, made sure her son received both doses of Sinopharm vaccine before he returned to school.

Vaccine rules vary between the emirates. No private school pupils in Dubai are required to have the vaccine, but many teenagers have opted to get the shots.

"This is Dhruv's last year of school after which he will be heading to university. I was excited that he make the best of it," Mrs Khanna said.

"He was missing out on school life and on interactions last year."

Online learning was a useful tool for schools at first, but by the end of last year interest had waned, Mrs Khanna said.

"The motivation to get up and attend classes was missing."

Anju Iyer, 16, of Delhi Private School, Dubai, said that last year pupils could not get a farewell because of the pandemic.

“I don’t want to miss that opportunity. I want things to get normal as early as possible,” said Anju.

“I want to have a proper farewell and graduation."

Updated: August 29, 2021, 2:38 PM