Coronavirus: UAE school shutdown strengthened bond with children, say parents

Some parents have struggled to come up with engaging indoor activities while others say the experience has revealed new skills among their children

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 19 – 2020 :- Nala Eliwa making t-shirts and tutus with her two daughters Haya (6 years old) and Nada (12 years old) at her home in Remraam in Dubai. She is trying to keep them busy and teaching new skills as all the schools are closed as a preventive measure against coronavirus. (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Patrick Ryan

For two weeks, parents across the Emirates have had to come up with creative ways to keep their children entertained indoors – after the UAE closed schools to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

Distance learning will begin for pupils from Sunday and last two weeks. Parents said, though coming up with activities for their children was tasking at times, the shutdown helped strengthen familial bonds and uncovered skills they did not realise their children had.

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This gave me a chance to spend quality time with them that I might not have got otherwise

One parent told The National they had introduced a good behaviour chart for their son, rewarding him with cash prizes if he reached daily targets, while another said her two daughters, aged 12 and six, were now taking a hands-on role with the family business showing early signs of becoming entrepreneurs themselves.

While many parents have been working from home, the challenge of keeping the kids entertained has been compounded by the fact many facilities such as cinemas and theme parks are on shutdown to help contain the spread of the virus.

But some parents said they relished the unexpected opportunity to spend more time with their children.

“Before this happened I wouldn’t been able to spend time like this with my girls,” said Egyptian Nahla Eliwa, 35.

“It used to be the case that they were tired after being at school all day and we’re a busy family, my husband would work away from home a lot.

“This gave me a chance to spend quality time with them that I might not have got otherwise.”

The Ministry of Education brought spring break, which was originally due to begin on March 29, forward to March 8, telling schools to close for a month. Pupils will now undergo distance learning from home.

“It used to be the case that they were tired after being at school all day and we’re a busy family, my husband would work away from home a lot.

“This gave me a chance to spend quality time with them that I might not have got otherwise.”

The Ministry of Education brought spring break, which was originally due to begin on March 29, forward to March 8, telling schools to close for a month. Pupils will now undergo distance learning from home.

“We’ve come to the end of the second week now that schools have been closed and it’s gone really well,” said Ms Eliwa, who gave up her job in PR to launch her own business making tutus for children.

To her delight, her children showed an interest in helping out with the family business during the break.

“It started with making costumes for my own daughters because they were quite expensive to buy and often low quality,” she said.

“My six-year-old daughter, Haya, showed a real interest in choosing colours and helping with the designs and Nada, 12, has taken over managing the company Instagram and is coming up with great ideas.

“It’s really brought us together and it’s been a lot of fun for the three of us.”

A father living in Dubai said he had come up with a novel way to ensure his six-year-old son remained disciplined throughout the unexpected break from school.

“My wife and I wanted to keep our son Zayyan engaged and make sure he didn’t lose his routine,” said Englishman Nas Furquan, 35, who works in finance.

He created a rewards system that granted his son points for completing certain activities like washing his teeth, reading, exercising, going to bed on time and saying his prayers.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 15 MARCH 2020. Parents thinking outside of the box to keep their kids engaged and entertained now sthat chools are closed. Zayyan Furquan(6) along with his farther Nas mark off the points he’s accumulated today for all the chores and home work he finished. Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Patrick Ryan. Section: National.

“He can earn up to a 100 points a day,” he said.

“If he scores a full 700 points in a week he gets Dh100, if he gets 500 points or above he wins Dh50.

“If he scores under 300 points he has to give us back money.”

He said the break also offered him a chance to teach his son about coronavirus and the affect it was having on the world around him.

“When rumours first began to surface about the possibility of the schools closing we were worried about what we were going to do,” he said.

“It’s worked out well though and he knows if he doesn’t complete a task he will lose points.”

For another Dubai parent, the challenge was to keep her two sons physically active.

“I’ve been keeping two very active boys, aged 13 and 10, busy by getting them to run and cycle around the community and do yoga and body weight exercises in the backyard,” said Rabi Khalid, 41, from Pakistan.

“They’ve been catching up with some math skills and writing essays as well as lots and lots of reading and playing half an hour of PS4 before dinner time.”

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