What was expected to be a virtual celebration turned into a brilliant reality in Ajman as pupils came together for a memorable in-person graduation ceremony.
Pupils, parents and teachers at Al Shola American School embraced the opportunity to hold the special gathering in front of a limited number of invited guests on Thursday.
They had been geared up to host the event online in keeping with Covid-19 safety measures before authorities granted approval for a public farewell for the class of 2021.
It was the first school graduation to be held in person in the emirate since the start of the pandemic – and proved an occasion to savour.
“We applied for an on-site graduation but were preparing for a virtual one just like the year before,” said Amjad Al Jubar, principal of Al Shola American School in Ajman.
“Two days ago we received the approval to throw a physical graduation for our pupils.”
The transition to an in-person event went smoothly.
"Everything was already in place, the programme, the clothing, the speeches, and as for safety rules they have been implemented for many months now, so the shift was easy," Mr Al Jubar said.
Staff relished the opportunity to share the good news with the graduates.
“It was a big surprise for our pupils and the look on their faces when we told them about the graduation was priceless,” he said.
It proved a joyous day for 44 pupils who marked the end of their school days in style.
Raneem Mohammed, 18, from Jordan, said it was a fitting reward for a challenging period of remote learning.
“These were a tough couple of years, studying and sitting exams remotely,” she said.
“But being able to celebrate the fruit of all these efforts with my family, doubled the joy for me.”
Her fellow pupil Fatima Al Thafri, 18, shared her sentiments.
“It was a surprise and a special moment, not only for us but for our families and teachers who supported us during our study journeys,” she said.
Ibrahim Doummar, 18, was also in jubilant mood.
“I never felt better as I graduated surrounded by my friends and family,” he said.
Parents were overwhelmed during a ceremony they had not expected to have the pleasure of seeing first hand.
“We were preparing ourselves to attend an online event, although we as parents wait our lives to see our kids graduate,” said Emirati Khaled Al Shehhi, 43.
His wife Eman Al Shehhi was also delighted to see her daughter bring an important chapter of her life to a close.
“It means a lot to me that I was able to attend Dana’s graduation, a real graduation, she is my eldest child and the first to graduate,” she said.
The ceremony was held in line with safety measures.
All attendees were asked to present a negative PCR test or prove they had received both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine.
A limited number of people were allowed into the venue after their temperatures were checked.
In 13 years, more than 8,000 pupils have graduated from Al Shola network of schools in the UAE.
Many of those thousands would have taken for granted the chance to graduate with their peers.
But for pupils who had to contend with the Covid-19 age of education, it was a day to cherish.