Coronavirus: UAE students, teachers try to adapt to distance learning from home

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The United Arab Emirates has suspended schools since March 8 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, which is primarily transmitted through human-to-human contact. After two weeks of spring holidays, both private and public schools in the country are now following a program of distance learning with students continuing to study from home – prompting new challenges for students, parents, and teachers.

“Online teaching is a fantastic advantage for people who have access to it, especially in such hard times,” said math teacher Manar Mofleh, but she pointed to difficulties keeping children engaged for the entire duration of a lesson due to connection problems.

“Sometimes a student loses connection and comes back after I had finished explaining a certain topic, in which case I would have to repeat it for everyone. It’s time consuming,” Mofleh told Al Arabiya English.

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Parents have also been forced to adapt to a new routine in which children are at home all day.

A Dubai mother said it has been a struggle for both her and her KG2 daughter Celine to try to get used to the new system.

“The first two days were not easy at all,” Sylvana Ait told Al Arabiya English. “Basically, I was the one teaching her and we were literally fighting.”

“But [Celine] gets excited when I post her assignment on her portfolio where her teacher will comment on it and add points to her report,” Ait added.

Meanwhile, some older students have taken to social media to express their concerns. An Arabic hashtag that translates to “we demand canceling the school year,” was trending on Twitter in the first week of distance learning. Social media users shared both positive and negative feedback.

“Our leaders are doing their best to give us everything and they’re trying their best to make things easier for us,” Twitter user Aysha Jayy wrote. “Please think about the graduates and people who were suffering this semester! Don’t be selfish and focus on your online classes.”

However, another Twitter user Mohammed Mulla said online education is “useless.”

“No one is understanding the lessons clearly so stop lying and saying that everything is going good when it’s not,” he wrote.

Even though distance learning may be challenging, Mofleh is glad it’s an option.

“It’s great that we can still teach, and students can still learn in such hard times, and the software developed to help as do that is brilliant, but it’s definitely not sustainable for the long term,” Mofleh added.

The new system will continue till it’s “safe for students to return,” according to the Knowledge and Human Development authority, which runs private schools in the UAE .

Schools were initially supposed to be closed for four weeks starting from March 8, according to the education ministry. Students were given a “spring break” from March 8 to March 21. The distance learning initiative was set to run from March 22 through April 4. The ministry denied media reports saying schools would be closed till the end of the school year in June.

Read more:

Dubai’s private school KHDA launches distance learning for students

Coronavirus shuts schools in UAE, all you need to know about studying from home

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