Dubai school principal says teachers with Covid-19 not to blame for switch to e-learning

School head says a minority of parents claimed teachers should not have travelled abroad over holidays

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Teachers should not be blamed for school closures linked to Covid-19 infections, a Dubai principal said.

Sasha Crabb, principal at Victory Heights Primary School, after criticism from some parents, said the surge in infections was not solely linked to teaching staff.

At least 30 schools were closed for the start of the new term on Monday, including Victory Heights, with remote teaching temporarily reinstated. Education officials said the majority of schools opened as planned.

Ms Crabb said she "hugely regretted" the decision, but felt it was necessary to stem the spread of the virus.

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We realise it is not the ideal solution for parents working from home, but we also felt it was necessary to have a circuit break while people returned to Dubai, both staff and pupils
Sasha Crabb, Victory Heights Primary School

Case numbers have risen sharply across the country in recent weeks, from below 50 in early December to 2,600 on Sunday, fuelled by the infectious Omicron variant.

“I read some of the social media posts from parents saying teachers should have been more responsible, teachers should have stayed in Dubai,” she said.

“There were a lot of last-minute PCR tests coming in, not just from people that have travelled but also from people that remained in the UAE who had difficulty getting test results back.

“It’s regrettable, hugely regrettable, but we had to do it because once we looked at the number of teachers and operations staff [with the virus], it was not going to be manageable for us to start term two with face-to-face learning.”

On Monday morning, she said 24 staff had tested positive for the virus and many others were isolating as a result of being identified as a close contact.

Speaking on radio station Dubai Eye, Ms Crabb said 95 per cent of the school’s community had "supported the decision to switch to e-learning" for the start of the new term.

Circuit break closure 'necessary'

“We had to look at the cases that were positive and the cases that were isolating, then look at what was best for us,” she said.

“It’s never something that we want to do and it takes a lot of thought to see what is best.

“We realise it is not the ideal solution for parents working from home, but we also felt it was necessary to have a circuit break while people returned to Dubai, both staff and pupils.

“I can understand why parents have reacted because it is frustrating, it’s a regrettable decision [to close], but I don’t feel at all that teachers should have to have stayed in Dubai and isolated over Christmas so that they didn’t contract Covid.”

Ms Crabb, who tested positive for the virus herself while in Dubai for the winter holidays, said there was a “myriad of evidence” that resulted in the decision to switch to distance learning.

“Teachers have not been irresponsible, it is unfortunately just the nature of the pandemic, but I do empathise with parents as it is a lot to take in.”

On Sunday evening, more than two dozen schools in Dubai sent out notices to parents advising them of a switch to distance learning for the first few days of the new term.

The decision was made owing to rising Covid-19 case numbers in the community.

Gems Education, which runs 28 schools in Dubai, said cases had been detected during extensive testing and it made the decision to close the gates at 26 of its schools on Monday.

Mohammed Darwish, chief executive of permits and compliance at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private education regulator, said the well-being of all members of the school population were paramount.

“We’re grateful to our education community for their resilience and support, and we remain focused on the well-being of families and school staff during this time," he said.

"Thorough health and safety protocols remain in place for all private schools in Dubai.

"We are working closely with each school to ensure that these protocols are followed and that teaching and learning continues.“

Updated: January 3rd 2022, 11:46 AM