Dubai: Thousands of students from Kerala returned for school reopening in the UAE on Sunday, while hundreds still couldn’t make it after the worst deluge in the South Indian state last month.
School officials and teachers told Gulf News that many teachers and students from Kerala had to reschedule their flights and travel to airports far from their locations, sometimes as distant as Hyderabad and Bengaluru, to return to the UAE in time before schools opened after the summer. Hundreds more are yet to return.
Dr. Thakur Mulchandani, principal of Sunrise English Private School in Abu Dhabi, said many students from Kerala were absent on the first day. “Around 70 per cent of our 2,900 students came to school today.”
Anna Pagdiwalla, principal, Mayoor Private School in Abu Dhabi, said: “Out of our 1600 students, attendance was at 80 per cent and that’s due to the unfortunate flooding in Kerala.”
Officials and teachers said schools have been flexible with those who could not report back on time, offering to give them exemptions if they officially intimate the reasons for their delay.
While schools in Dubai also reported non-attendance of some students and teachers from Kerala, those who came back shared the stories of their experiences in the devastating floods that killed hundreds and displaced thousands. They were both affected by the floods and worked as volunteers in the relief works.
Lessons of sharing, caring, equality and resilience they experienced were recounted by students directly affected by the floods and those who witnessed the devastation while participating in the relief efforts.
It was an unforgettable vacation for Michael Leo, a grade 12 student of Delhi Private School in Dubai, whose family had to vacate their house in Thrissur district of Kerala due to flooding.
“All the destruction I have seen has definitely affected me. Many people have to start from scratch now. We need to protect people from falling victims to such calamities and also help them rebuild their lives. More than just wanting to help, I feel an obligation to help,” said Leo, who is busy sending relief materials from here after he got back on Wednesday.
Fawaz Basheer, a grade 9 student of New Indian Model School in Dubai, who assisted his father and friends in relief works for two weeks, said the scenes he witnessed at relief camps and destroyed homes were heartbreaking.
“It was very saddening to see people beg for drinking water, irrespective of their background. The floods have taught people that all are equal and there is no point fighting in the name of differences. We shouldn’t be arrogant about what we have and we should not waste food and other resources.”
Even the younger, primary schoolchildren have been sharing what they experienced, saw and heard, said Sheena Beas, an English teacher at an Indian school in Dubai.
“Thankfully, our students were not affected badly. But many had stories about what they saw and the experiences of their relatives. They spoke about the unforgettable ‘twist’ to their vacation that they never expected,” Beas said.
— With inputs from Sami Zaatar, Staff Reporter
Michael Leo, grade 12, Delhi Private School, Dubai
“After floods hit our house, the water rose to knee-level and we realised we had to leave. In our colony, there were other houses that were badly affected. As we were leaving, my family and all volunteers from the area helped bring many people out. We carried out the elderly people in armchairs and even huge vessels. We moved to my grandfather’s flat, in a high-rise building in a safer area. Many of our relatives from flood-hit areas were accommodated in that apartment. We also ended up driving to Calicut airport to fly to Dubai, as the Cochin airport was closed.”
Fawaz Basheer, grade 9, New Indian Model School, Dubai
“I helped my father and others in relief works for two weeks. There was no water supply in many areas. We used to pump water from our well into two tanks of 1,000 litres and make two daily trips to various relief camps. We also supplied water to catering companies providing food to the flood-hit people. On the eve of Eid Al Adha, I took part in the distribution of 700 mats donated by members of our residential association in Dubai, AKGMA, to people who were sleeping outside shops. When we went to help clean up a relative’s house after the floods, we saw crabs, tortoises and leeches all around.”
Shahanas Basheer, B. Com student, Success Point, Sharjah
“Accommodating around 50 people for nine days in our house was a big learning experience in itself. All my family members took part in relief works at various camps. We distributed relief goods in three camps and I saw the pathetic condition of some people. I was sad to see sanitary napkins being rationed out to girls and women. When we gave power banks to one family, all of them took out iPhones. Rich or poor, all were affected by the floods that turned out be a great leveller.”
Farva Nadeem, grade 11, Delhi Private School, Dubai
“My classmates and I started a group called ‘Juvenescence’. We collected 105kg of relief materials, soon to be sent to Kerala with the help of Dar Al Ber Society. We are sending foodstuff, hygiene and sanitary products, clothes, blankets, utensils, cutlery etc. Our school has always embedded the idea of service in us. The DPS motto itself is “Service Before Self.” It has instilled the value of sharing and caring among us. So it felt like a moral duty — even for non-Keralite students like me — to support the flood victims.”