More than two dozen Dubai schools extend e-learning for another week

At least 28 private schools continue to hold classes remotely

Covid-19 cleaning and preparation at Swiss International School in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Some Dubai private schools that had moved to online learning last week resumed face-to-face classes on Monday.

Kent College Dubai welcomed pupils through its doors on January 10 as all grades returned to classrooms for the first time this term.

Pupils at Victory Heights Primary School were also greeted on site by teachers this week after beginning the term with online learning.

At least 28 private schools in the emirate continue to hold classes remotely with some scheduled to return to classrooms on January 17.

Last week, The National reported that more than two dozen schools in Dubai had switched to distance learning for the first few days of the new term due to Covid-19 cases in the community.

For some schools, the decision on whether to resume in-person lessons is fluid and reassessed daily. This can mean that some grades begin to go back to the classroom while older children remain learning remotely.

"Gems Education schools in Dubai have received approval from KHDA [Knowledge and Human Development Authority] to extend remote learning as necessary," Elmarie Venter, chief operations officer at Gems Education said.

"However, some of our schools have already begun to welcome back students for face-to-face learning in phases and this will continue over the coming days depending on the individual circumstances at each school."

Seven Gems Education schools had some pupils physically in school on Tuesday. But many more are expected to start welcoming back pupils on Wednesday.

"The current situation is fluid and we will continue to work closely with, and follow the guidance of, the relevant regulators to ensure the health and safety of our school communities, which remains our number one concern.”

For some schools that are resuming in-person lessons the belief is that it enhances the learning environment to be in the classroom.

Anthony Cashin, principal at Kent College Dubai, said: “We are delighted to have reopened our doors this week for full-time, face-to-face learning. As seamless as our online learning provision is, we believe that face-to-face learning is ideal for our pupils.

"In the last week of the holidays, we made the decision to open the new term with five days of online learning, which we communicated with parents.”

The school made a decision to move to remote learning in early January after it received messages from a number of staff and parents informing that they had tested positive with Covid-19, or were close contacts with a positive case.

Due to the high number of cases at the time, the school was unable to cover all staff who were going to be absent.

Gems Education, which operates 28 schools in Dubai, continues to hold classes online at 26 of its campuses.

“Gems Education continues to work very closely with the authorities in the UAE to keep our school communities as safe as possible following the move to distance learning," Ms Venter said.

"We are continuously monitoring the situation and look forward very much to welcoming our students back into the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so."

Sheela Menon, principal for Ambassador School in Dubai, said the school had moved to remote learning for the first week of term and had extended it for another week.

The school sought the extension from the KHDA and expects to resume in-person classes on January 17.

"The number of cases among pupils and families are still high. Pupils are [testing] positive or they are primary contacts, meaning family members have tested positive," Ms Menon said.

She said many families at the school had travelled during the holidays and unlike previous strains of the virus, pupils seem more likely to become infected this time.

"That’s one reason why parents are uncomfortable sending their children to school at this point," she said.

She said private schools in Dubai could move to online learning for a 48-hour-period without any prior approval.

More than 1,300 pupils are enrolled at the school and even when a full return to in-person learning is announced, Ms Menon said it was likely many parents would wait before sending their children back.

Some Dubai schools opened for 100 per cent in-person lessons on January 3, the first day of term, including all schools run by Taaleem.

"We are pleased to report that the vast majority of our Dubai students were able to return to their classrooms to commence studies," said Alan Williamson, chief executive of Taaleem.

"Our schools in Abu Dhabi are presently all online and will continue with their distance-learning programmes until advised that face-to-face, on-campus learning can resume."

Updated: January 11th 2022, 12:57 PM