Dubai: Schools have started holding Ramadan-themed activities such as presentations on the month of fasting, acts of kindness and Quran recitals, among others.
Ramadan started on Tuesday in the UAE and as of always, schools in the country have lined up several events and activities to mark the occasion, while following the precautionary measures that have been put in place in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Jumeira Baccalaureate School (JBS), Dubai, students on Tuesday morning were shown a Ramadan presentation by various staff members, said principal Richard John Drew. “In our Islamic Studies lessons this month, work will be very special and each class will be creating presentations that we will share in virtual assemblies, including students reciting the Quran. Presentations will be done in Arabic and English to cater to all our students,” he added.
Joining national drive
This year, JBS is joining the UAE’s ‘100 Million Meals’ Ramadan campaign, which at the school will be led by the student council via the head boy and head girl so the school can “engage in the spirit of giving” that is characteristic of Ramadan, the principal added.
Meanwhile JBS Art Departments are focusing on creating an environment that reflects “students’ progress through the holy month with personal experience as well as the physical environment”.
A head start
American Academy for Girls (AAG), Dubai, had already been hosting Ramadan-themed events this week, even before Ramadan started, as part of the preparations for the occasion. For example, AAG hosted a Ramadan assembly on Sunday, which included recitations from the Quran and customs to follow during Ramadan.
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Learning while giving
Moving forward, during AAG’s Islamic Studies and UAE Social Studies classes, students will learn the historical context and religious significance of Ramadan. “While we cannot gather food and money for donating collectively, our families are encouraged to donate through Emirates Red Crescent and other organisations such as ‘Stop and Help Kindness Exchange’, which provides grocery support for needy families,” said Lisa Johnson, principal of AAG.
‘Sense of community’
At the school, the Ramadan spirit even extends to a dining area organised for students and staff who are not fasting, which is not visible to the fasting community members. “We do have a very large number of fasting students and staff, including non-Muslim staff members. This is a good opportunity for a shared sense of community while learning discipline and a way to become more compassionate to those in need,” Johnson added.
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Meanwhile, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park is also organising diverse activities for Ramadan, although in a more limited format because of precautions for the COVID-19 pandemic, said Rebecca Coulter, the school’s vice-principal. “We are looking forward to celebrating Ramadan with our community and although ongoing COVID-19 restrictions have limited our traditional approaches, we are marking the holy month at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park in various ways. We have invited our community to celebrate the ‘Wonders of the UAE’ through a themed photography competition, with a different focus for each week of Ramadan,” she added.
Quran on school radio
“In addition, our ‘Words of Kindness’ project, which covers all year groups, allows students to reflect on and incorporate the values of Ramadan. Weekly Quran recitals are taking place, with our students broadcasting these via our school radio station, so we can listen as a whole school. We have invited our community to contribute to our nominated charities and we are also supporting the ‘Rice Collection Drive’ organised by Emirates Red Crescent.”
At GEMS Founders School — Al Mizhar, students are learning more about Ramadan through special assemblies, webinars and competitions, said CEO and principal Akram Tarik. “For many members of our community, this is not their first experience of Ramadan. Yet, it will be different this year. Despite COVID-19 regulations, we have planned to ensure that all our children are able to meet academic expectations while fasting and are supported to continue with normal school life,” he added.
“Embodying the values of Ramadan is encouraged through our GFM Ramadan 30-day challenge, where we challenge and reward all our children to complete an act of kindness, empathy, helpfulness and respect as part of our Jewel of Kindness Values Education Programme.”
Mahmoud Ali, director/coach of Arabic and Islamic Studies at GEMS Metropole School, said: “For our Muslim and non-Muslim students, [Ramadan] is an excellent opportunity for them to think about self-discipline and consideration of other people.” Activities include Ramadan educational videos prepared by the Islamic department and published on social media; hosting a virtual Iftar for all GEMS Metropole community as well as many acts of kindness to help others during this holy month, Ali added.
Also, teachers will explain to the class the significance of Ramadan and fasting. “Every effort will be made to provide students who are fasting access to rooms set aside for prayers or a quiet area away from the dining room to rest if they wish.”
Karim Murcia, Principal/CEO, GEMS Al Barsha National School, said among the Ramadan activities at the school is a partnership with a charity organisation to facilitate community giving, a Quran competition, a virtual Iftar for students and families to share the “special moment”, as well as parent workshops delivered by experts on various topics related to Ramadan.
The school will also provide students with a Ramadan Calendar of “enrichment” tasks and challenges, with students uploading their responses and contributions to a Ramadan Calendar Padlet. The assembly programme will become dedicated to a Ramadan focus and Islamic values. Students and teachers will share Ramadan Reminders on core values via social media.
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Webinars for parents
Gillian Hammond, Principal, Repton Abu Dhabi said: “Over the next four weeks, our Reptonians will be engaged in different Ramadan activities during their Islamic lessons with creative links to other curriculum areas. To include our wider Repton family, Mr Simsar Haq, Head of Islamic Studies, is conducting two Ramadan Webinars for Parents, where he will share great insights into the importance of Ramadan, with a Q&A session for any questions regarding the holy month.”
She said the school community will also hold weekly e-assemblies that will include students’ reflections during Ramadan. Also, on a dedicated evening in the last week of Ramadan, all members of the school community will be invited to share a photograph of their family enjoying their iftar on the school’s Twitter pages.
David Cook, headmaster, Repton School Dubai and CEO for the Repton Family of Schools, said among other Ramadan programmes, the school has launched ‘The Giving Challenge’ where students and staff can post on a Padlet link acts of giving that they have done or witnessed. The winner of the most ‘giving’ House will be announced at the end of the month.
“We will also be hosting our annual virtual awards ceremony for Repton’s Quran competition where some of our Muslim junior and senior students will be awarded virtual certificates and prizes for their Quranic recitation and memorisation skills,” Cook added.
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Working with the times
Zoe Woolley, headmistress, Repton Al Barsha, said each year the school holds a presentation for pupils, staff and parents about Ramadan and what it means. “We also talk about the significance of the month and the ways to be respectful. There are also virtual iftars for staff and many of the parents enjoy taking part in charity initiatives. This year, we recognise that situations might be different for our families. We have worked closely with the whole of the school community to make the appropriate arrangements for all,” she added. “Ramadan is a special time for families. This year, we have given all our staff a small box of dates, to mark the first day of Ramadan.”