Frontline workers in the UAE are saving tens of thousands of dirhams a year on school fees for their children under a government initiative created to support them.
Almost 2,000 medics treating Covid-19 patients have been enrolled in the Hayyakum programme that launched last month.
Among them is Dr Abeer Darwish, a Syrian paediatrician at Mediclinic Al Mussaffah in Abu Dhabi, who looked after children with Covid-19 while also carrying out her regular duties.
Two of her five children, Rand, 8, and Raghad, 12, are registered under the initiative and have begun studies at Maryam Bin Omran School and Madinat Baniyas School in grades 3 and 7, respectively.
"I'm going to save Dh40,000 yearly and that's a lot for me," Dr Darwish, 44, told The National.
“I have five children and we were paying a lot before. The government benefits has relieved much of our financial stress.”
The scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, laptops and transportation for pupils until they graduate from high school. They scholarships can only be used at public schools.
Her eldest son, Baraa, graduated from school last year, her second daughter, Roaa, did not want to transfer schools because she is in her final year and the youngest, Zakaria, is in kindergarten.
Between school payments, house rent and other bills, Dr Darwish said expenses usually exceed what she and her dentist husband can afford.
“When they told me the news, I felt great. I felt like we are part of the UAE community and the government is there to help us,” she said.
“I’m from Syria, but we haven’t been back to our home for nearly 11 years. It feels like we are living in our second home here in the UAE.”
Dr Darwish worked eight-hour shifts at the clinic from April to July, when she treated patients and ensured children with Covid-19 and others remained in separate parts of the building.
Precautionary measures across the UAE were in place during most of that time – including stay-home orders, closure of entertainment venues and capacity limits in shops – to contain the spread of the virus.
While, Covid-19 cases dropped down to as low as 164 in early August, the number has increased more than nine-fold since.
“It’s been difficult because we work on the frontlines and there’s always a worry of ‘what if we are bringing the virus home to our family?’” said Dr Darwish.
Majed Al Fadhl, a consultant surgeon in Al Ain, has also received benefits under the programme.
His two sons have been granted full school scholarships until graduation.
“I received a personal call from the Ministry of Education, telling me that two of my sons have been accepted in government schools and granted full scholarships for the whole school duration, as I had worked on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.
"My family and I are very happy about that."
To date, 1,850 healthcare workers have received financial support under Hayyakum, launched by the Ministry of Education and Frontline Heroes Office.