Abu Dhabi schools opened its gate on Monday morning to welcome the first group of students for in-person classes after three weeks of remote learning since the beginning of the second term.

Last week, the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that students in public schools across the UAE would return to in-person learning in two phases.

The first group of students returned to education institutions today, January 24. These include kindergarten, cycle 1 (grades 1-5), and grade 12 and 13 students.

Those taking international exams have also returned to campus.

The second group of students (grades 6-11) will resume in-person learning from January 31.

Private school pupils in Abu Dhabi also returned to in-person lessons in phases from today following the approval from the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek).

Mohamad Saad, principal of AJYAL International School, MBZ, Abu Dhabi, said at least 85 per cent of their students in the first group returned to school for face-to-face learning on Monday.

"Everyone has been eager to return to school. The pupils have been excited and genuinely happy about returning to school, seeing their peers, and meeting with their teachers," he said.

"The kids were in good form and full of stories of their weekend adventures. Foundation Stage students were delighted to be coming back to school after three weeks of online learning. All of the children displayed a happy little face as they climbed off the bus or came through our doors."

George Mathew, CEO and principal of Gems Indian School in Abu Dhabi, said 65 per cent of students that opted for face-to-face learning from KG to Grade 5, Grade 10 and 12 attended school on January 24.

"I can anticipate the number will be growing on a daily basis. Come next week; we will have huge numbers reporting back to school. We are all set to beat the pandemic with optimism and a growth mindset," he said.

"The phased approach to bringing children back to school is the most appropriate step recommended by Adek. This has helped schools to be better prepared when all grades return to school next week."

He said parents have been given the option to choose physical attendance or distance learning models for their children.

Jaana Wilkko, principal of Garden City British School in Al Ain, said pupils, teachers and parents were all relieved to be back at school, and they were filled with mixed emotions of excitement and joy.

"After three weeks of tough distance learning for children, parents, and teachers alike, the willingness to return to normal learning procedures is now visibly high; everyone shows the willingness to comply with the government's safety requirements to gain the normalcy seen in term 1," said Wilkko.

"Few children even voiced a dislike for distance learning, stating that they prefer to be in school with their friends and teachers, where they can communicate and collaborate to make learning enjoyable and exciting."

Salman Ahmed Khan, deputy principal, Islamiya English School Abu Dhabi, said their teachers were delighted to see the gleeful faces of their students as they had been missing their joyful interactions.

"On the first day, KG-1 to Grade-5, and Grade 10,11,12 reported and grades 6 to 9 continued with remote learning," he said.

"Teachers had been allocated duties on gate entries inside and outside to ensure all requirements are met. Everyone, students and parents, had to present a 96-hour negative PCR test result to be allowed into the school premises."

Khan noted that the turn-up of their pupils has been encouraging, especially in KGs and primary, and they hope the number will increase as they proceed optimistically with intentions to motivate and embolden the learners.

He pointed out that with the safety and wellbeing of staff and students being the school's top priority, all health, hygiene and safety measures had been taken care of.

"Parents are being counselled as an ongoing campaign to get their children vaccinated at their earliest with an advice to highlight with their wards the positive aspects of returning to school," said Khan.

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