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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

Cheers as Abu Dhabi pupils return to school for first time in 11 months

Year 7 to 9 pupils at British School Al Khubairat happy to resume in-person lessons

Pupils at an Abu Dhabi school received a guard of honour when they returned to the classroom for the first time in almost a year.

About 130 learners in years seven to nine at British School Al Khubairat received a warm welcome from staff and fellow pupils who cheered and clapped when they arrived on Wednesday.

Pupils in those year groups – aged between 11 and 14 – have been anxiously awaiting the moment they could finally reunite with friends and teachers.

Since March last year they studied remotely as part of efforts to combat Covid-19, remaining at home long after other pupils as part of a staggered resumption of in-person lessons in the capital.

“For some it is their first time at secondary school and for some [who joined from other schools] it is the first time on campus, and first time for them to see their classmates,” said Mark Leppard, headmaster at the school.

 Mariam Ilyas finally walked through the school gates at British British School Al Khubairat for the first time. Victor Besa / The National
 Mariam Ilyas finally walked through the school gates at British British School Al Khubairat for the first time. Victor Besa / The National

Mariam Ilyas, a Year 8 pupil, was one of those visiting her school for the first time.

The 11-year-old Pakistani-American has been attending only online classes since she moved to BSAK last year.

“The teachers were really helpful and understanding, but it wasn’t like normal school,” she said.

“I really wanted to go back to school.

“I have already made friends with five of my classmates online, we were always together on Zoom. Now we will be here every day together,” she said. “I am just excited.”

The school was expecting about 1,500 pupils from nursery to Year 13 to be back in classes this week, with the exception of Year 10 and Year 11, who have not returned yet.

Year seven to nine pupils were scheduled to resume face-to-face lessons at the start of the new term in January, only for distance learning to be extended until this week after a rise in coronavirus infections.

Teachers and headmasters were stationed at the school gates, checking that each pupil had a negative PCR test result before they entered.

Pupils must follow safety measures when in school, including wearing masks and adhering to social distancing.

Thousands of teachers in the emirate received at least one dose of the Sinopharm vaccine as part of a voluntary drive organised by Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge

“We were certainly very strict today, some schools were fined for not checking tests,” Mr Leppard said.

“We have an entire team just to follow up on the tests.”

Year eight pupil Janna Karajeh is excited to be back in a classroom. Victor Besa / The National
Year eight pupil Janna Karajeh is excited to be back in a classroom. Victor Besa / The National

Janna Karajeh, 12, a Year 8 pupil, stood patiently until the gate attendant checked her results.

She said she had met a few of her friends outside of school but others she had not seen since distance learning was enforced.

She said the many Zoom calls in the time since had made them better friends.

Remote learning was fairly challenging, she said.

“I feel like it was so much easier to concentrate when in school.

“Also not being able to do lessons with people, it was more like you have to be independent, I feel people did not ask as many questions as they did in school.”

The school had a packed itinerary planned for its returning pupils and those seeing the premises for the first time, including a tour of the facilities.

Updated: February 17, 2021 05:58 PM

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