Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi high school pupils 'in it together' on return to classroom

Senior pupils are helping younger learners adapt to new safety measures at British School Al Khubairat

Senior pupils at an Abu Dhabi school took on a leadership role to support fellow learners on their first day back in the classroom for six months.

British School Al Khubairat will welcome back hundreds of secondary grade pupils this week as part of a staggered return to in-person lessons, after months at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Year 12 pupils filed through the corridors once more on Monday, with Year 10 back on Tuesday, Year 11 on Wednesday and Year 13 on Thursday.

Vedant Kahanna, head boy of the school, was one of a number of year 13 prefects to come back early on Monday to join teachers in guiding younger pupils around their new environment.

This is our last year at BSAK. Hopefully we can get a prom

In addition to the need for masks to be worn at all times, stickers and traffic cones have been placed all over the school to create separate paths for people walking in different directions.

The system will aid physical distancing measures and prevent overcrowding during the school day, but Vedant admitted it will take a little time to get used to.

“I ended up at a point where all the arrows were pointing on me so I got stuck and had to jump,” said the year 13 pupil from India.

“But once I spend a day around here, it shouldn’t be difficult.”

“We came here to make year 12's transition smoother and to show the new people around, and to make sure the one-way system is being followed.”

Vedant said the school felt like “a new place”, but he was happy to be back and was looking forward to meeting his classmates on Thursday.

“It is nice to see those people who you were only seeing on the screen all the time,” he said.

He said he found attending classes from home more convenient, but he missed the “human interaction”.

“The first thing I want to do on Thursday when I see my friends, we can’t meet up properly for social distancing, so I guess we will just tap feet.”

He said he had no fear or worries of returning back to school as “the excitement overrode any kind of fear”.

Tens of thousands of pupils are also heading back to school in Sharjah this week as part of nationwide efforts to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

Amelie Yazdabadi, head girl, said she was also glad to be back, “even if it meant following the one-way traffic system” in the corridors.

She reflected back on the last day at school in early March.

“It was World Book Day, and everyone had to come as a book character; I did Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” said the 17-year-old Briton.

“It was really a fun last day. And during our last session, we played Pictionary.”

She said they did not know it was going to be their last day at school for months to come.

“At first they told us it will be two weeks [of studying from home], and we really thought it was going to be just two weeks.”

The year 13 pupil said it would be difficult to get used to the new rules but she was happy to return to school.

“This is our last year at BSAK. It is a time when you really make those friendship groups, but with social distancing and not being able to sit together in a big group and no parties it won’t be the same," she said.

“Hopefully we can get a prom.”

Mark Leppard, headmaster at the school, was on hand as the Year 12 pupils arrived for lessons.

About 87 per cent of pupils chose to come back to school, with the rest decided to continue learning from home,

“Some are feeling vulnerable and some are still nervous,” said Mr Leppard.

In secondary, 500 out of 920 are returning this week.

He said he was confident that pupils will abide by Covid-19 rules.

“The students want to be in school. We’ve sent a lot of messages to them that we’re all in this together, and we want to stay open so if we stick to the rules we can do it,” he said.