All change! New COVID-19 rules: When are children entitled to distance learning in Dubai schools?
As COVID-19 once again spikes in the UAE and across the world, many parents are wondering whether they are entitled to request distance learning for their child in Dubai schools.
While most families have welcomed the opportunity to send their children to face-to-face learning this term, the surge in positive COVID cases has left some parents preferring to keep their children at home, to avoid potential exposure to coronavirus.
“We much prefer face to face learning normally but kept our son off nursery last week because we were worried about the rise in COVID numbers,” says Aditi Nair, a Dubai-based mother of a three-year-old boy. “He was due to return this week, but we have kept him off again since a positive COVID case was found in his class.”
The distance learning option – which came to the rescue in 2020 when schools first closed their doors due to the pandemic – is one way of ensuring that children do not miss out on important parts of the curriculum while they are physically away from school.
However, unlike in 2020 and the first half of 2021, it is no longer possible to opt for only distance learning as a preference/alternative in Dubai private schools.
In October 2021, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which regulates Dubai private schools, removed the option of distance learning for students almost entirely except in the most exceptional circumstances.
This has now been updated. The new change, confirmed in late January 2022, is that now distance learning must now be made available to parents and students in a wider range of instances.
These are as follows:
3 Instances in which you can request distance learning in Dubai private schools
If your child shows COVID symptoms
Students or staff who have any Covid-like symptoms must not go to school. Schools must give students with Covid-like symptoms the option of distance learning. Students and staff may return to school when they no longer show any Covid-like symptoms. If you test positive for COVID-19, you should follow isolation guidelines per Dubai Health Authority. A clearance certificate to be issued by Dubai Health Authority is required to return to school after isolation is completed.
If your child is identified as a close contact of a COVID positive case
In line with Dubai Health Authority guidelines, students and staff who have been identified as close contacts by the school’s Health and Safety Officer must quarantine for seven days. Students must be given the option of distance learning.
A PCR test is not required for close contacts to return to school unless they develop Covid symptoms. Household members of the close contact do not need to self-isolate, unless the close contact develops Covid-19 symptoms.
If your child develops COVID-19
In line with Dubai Health Authority guidelines, students and staff who have tested positive for Covid-19 must complete 10 days of home isolation. Students must be given the option of distance learning. They must receive a clearance certificate authorised by Dubai Health Authority before returning to school.
Reminder: When to keep your child off school in Dubai
The KHDA has issued a reminder to parents about the importance of keeping children off school if they develop COVID-like symptoms.
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The reminder took the form of a post on their social media, which offered two hypothetical scenarios: The situation of ‘Tulip’ and that of ‘Rose’, both of whom feel some COVID-like symptoms.
Whereas Rose decides her symptoms are mild enough to return to school, Tulip remains off school to do distance learning.
Rose’s friends end up being upset with her for putting them at risk, while Tulip is relieved she didn’t put anyone at risk.
The end note is clear: If your child has any COVID-like symptoms, keep them home and seek medical advice – doing online learning in the interim.
What are COVID-19 symptoms?
According to the Dubai Health Authority, the following are symptoms of COVID-19:
Symptoms can include mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, dry cough, shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. Some patients experience body aches, muscle pain, headaches, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhoea, nausea or loss of smell and taste.
What does all this mean? The SchoolsCompared Verdict.
The KHDA here is ensuring that disruptions to every child’s education are kept to a minimum. Children should not lose education because of Covid-19 – and the new change place a direct responsibility on schools to provide quality Distance Learning for every child if they are required to isolate.
What the KHDA is not doing, however, is signalling to parents that they can, as a matter of course, decide to remove children from school for any reason, including an understandable fear about the rise in cases and risks to family health.
What they are trying to avoid, we think, is a fragmentation of the education sector in Dubai, with all its knock on impacts, that could see many children taken out of school.
The fundamental belief driving this is a strong, conviction-led belief that the right place for children is in schools. This is the default position and places children. and their needs, first. At the same time, however, they are also giving a clear signal to parents that they are supported – and that they, and their children, will never be penalised for doing the right thing and isolating.
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