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COVID-19: Parents applaud Abu Dhabi approval for distance learning option

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Abu Dhabi: Parents across the emirate of Abu Dhabi have welcomed the recent decision to allow school-going children to continue distance learning in the upcoming school term.

Speaking to Gulf News, they applauded the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge’s (Adek) change in guidelines due to COVID-19, undertaken in response to parental concerns.

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“The verdict to continue distance learning over the next few months is also very positive. I will definitely choose to keep my children, enrolled in Grades 2 and 3, home for the time being,” Adel Al Hammadi, 40, director at a semi-government company, told Gulf News.

His children are enrolled at a British curriculum school in the capital. “I would also like to thank the UAE’s leadership and educational authorities for mandating distance learning to limit the COVID-19 outbreak. It has allowed children to continue learning under these unprecedented circumstances,” Al Hammadi added.

Adek initially mandated in July that all children must return to some form of in-class learning from the start of the upcoming term onwards. Then, last week, the regulator updated the guidelines to allow parents with children enrolled in private schools to opt for distance learning during the term that is set to begin on August 30.

“Responding to a strong call from parents who prefer continuing distance learning for their children, Adek has approved the option of full-time distance learning for the upcoming term. We have also dedicated a hotline which parents can use to report and address any concerns: 800-COMPLIANC (E) / 800-266754262,” the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek), the emirate’s education sector regulator, confirmed to Gulf News.

‘Great relief’

“We were very relieved to hear about this. Our six-year-old daughter, Hairine, is not yet old enough to socially distance herself, because we feel that we ourselves have to make a conscious effort. So it is safest for her to continue learning at home for the moment,” said Anas Kadiyarakam, 35, regional human resources manager at a health care provider, and his wife, Kadeeja Jishni.

The couple said they had stayed vigilant throughout the outbreak, avoiding going outside initially, and only visiting open areas during the recent Eid Al Adha break. “We have generally been very safe, so we were worried about Hairine’s exposure to COVID-19 when school started. Despite the teachers’ best intentions, it is impossible to monitor multiple children in the classrooms, the washrooms and the buses,” Kadiyarakam said.

Older children

Even parents with older children are happy with the ability to maintain learning virtually. “My son is set to join Grade 10 at a British curriculum school, and I don’t feel at all comfortable sending him in. So this is very welcome,” added an Emirati businessman and father-of-three.

Given the recent update, parents will now be able to choose between in-class learning and distance learning. But they will still have to pay the full tuition fee, regardless of how they choose to continue their children’s education.

Adek has also clarified that homeschooling without enrolment at an Abu Dhabi school is not recognised, and children who are educated in this manner may run the risk of having to repeat the school year once they decide to rejoin the formal education system in the emirate.

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