UAE pupils fasting during Ramadan say rest and nutrition key to exam success

Thousands studying Indian curriculum in Grade 12 face tests while observing the holy month

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 15:  Grade 12 students taking exams at the Al Raya Girls' School for secondary education in Dubai on December 15, 2010.  (Randi Sokoloff for The National)  For News story by Afshan Ahmed
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Pupils in the UAE who are fasting during Ramadan say rest, nutrition and being prepared are key to passing board exams.

Thousands at Indian-curriculum schools across the country are sitting their Central Board of Secondary Education Grade 12 exams during the holy month.

The exam season began last month and will continue until April 2. The results will help pupils gain admission to universities.

Pupils said they felt exhausted, dehydrated and struggled to focus on studies at times, but they did not want to skip fasting.

In Ramadan, the chances of our prayers being accepted increases so it makes it easier to manage the dehydration throughout the day even though it's challenging
Iman Asif Parbhulkar, 17, pupil at Delhi Private School Dubai

Delhi Private School Dubai pupil Farzad Shaikh, 17, is fasting and said he needed to be in for 6am on exam days.

He wakes up at 4.30am for suhoor, studies and then heads to the school, where a bus takes him to the exam centre, which is at a different school. The toughest part is being distracted by hunger pangs, he said.

“It doesn't let me focus properly when preparing for the exam,” he told The National.

“I have been writing three-hour-long examinations for a very long time now, so I think I am used to it. But since these are board exams, we have to write according to the Indian times, for which you have to go to the centre earlier.”

Farzad said he did not sleep after suhoor and instead used that time to study.

“I believe in having a strategy. I can't not sleep so the best strategy for me is that I shouldn't compromise on my sleep,” he said.

Getting enough rest helps him stay active and think clearly and analytically, he added.

Delhi Private School pupil Iman Asif Parbhulkar, 17, said she did not want to miss out on fasting during exam season.

“I have always fasted in Ramadan so even though the CBSE exams are very important, I didn't want to forgo fasting during these exams,” Iman said. “However, I feel very tired at times because I'm not eating or drinking anything.”

She tries to keep herself well hydrated during non-fasting hours to keep lethargy at bay.

Having a plan for her studies was crucial, she said. “I sleep properly to make sure I feel fresh and I make sure that I prepare for the exam beforehand,” she said.

Ensuring she eats well during suhoor is also essential. “I have a cup of coffee, something sweet, fruits, whatever I need,” she said.

“In Ramadan, the chances of our prayers being accepted increases so it makes it easier to manage the dehydration throughout the day even though it's challenging.”

Suha Kaddura, head girl at Yasmina British Academy in Abu Dhabi, said one of the hardest challenges she faced during Ramadan was maintaining both academic and religious responsibilities.

“I'm grateful to have teachers who are extremely supportive when it comes to helping me balance my time,” she said.

Other pupils are also ensuring they have solid routines as they prepare to take their exams after Ramadan.

Fatma Alshehi, an Emirati Grade 10 pupil at the American Academy for Girls in Dubai, said short power naps helped to boost her energy levels.

“I feel like staying consistent and focused is important,” she told The National. “The first week is usually really tough but staying consistent and setting a time to study every single day helps.”

Rhoda Ramadan, another Grade 10 pupil at the school, said she focused on staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and eating food with high water content, such as watermelon and cucumbers.

“When you're fasting for a long time in school, you kind of yearn for water instead of food because you're thirsty because without water, you get more headaches,” she said.

Extra support for pupils

Jennie Kellett, head of secondary at Yasmina British Academy, said the school ensures that students have quiet places to rest to help them cope.

“As exams are always a stressful time, we have also moved all our exam support sessions online, so that students can access these from the comfort of their home while fasting,” she said.

These have also been timed to ensure that pupils are able to perform their prayers on time and join their families for iftar.

Lini Shivaprasad, principal of Gems Millennium School Sharjah, said that teachers also met students for additional support so that they could communicate any difficulties.

“We have made arrangements so that our students are dropped directly to the centre rather than coming to the school then going there,” she said.

Usually students come to school and are then transported to the examination hall at a different school.

This year, they can go to the centres directly to save time and energy.

Her advice to students was to make sure they had a nutritious morning meal, including large amounts of fruit and water, and avoid eating anything fried before fasting.

Teachers are also available for online sessions with students in the evening to help calm pre-exam nerves.

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Updated: March 28, 2024, 9:47 AM