by Laura Rainbow
After months of partial closure due to COVID-19 pandemic, schools in Qatar have been told they will reopen for classroom-based teaching on September 1, 2020.
At about 9pm on Thursday, July 16, Qatar’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education announced that schools in Qatar will ‘return to in-person education’ — as opposed to online learning — at the start of September.
Staff at government schools are to return to work by August 19, while students in both government and private schools must start classes on September 1. The Ministry stated that “Attendance is mandatory for staff and students” and that it is “working closely with schools administrations to put in place the necessary plans and procedures to ensure the safety of staff and students.”
Unknown factors remain
The return to in-person schooling will be welcomed by many after months of online education since Qatar’s schools closed on March 10. But there are still some unknown factors to be cleared up before schools can open their gates again.
Most teachers in local private schools are foreign nationals, using the summer break to visit family at home and escape Qatar’s hottest season. The government has yet to confirm how those staff who have travelled can get approval to return from their holidays in time to quarantine and begin the school year.
In addition, many schools that employ overseas staff are relying on a brand new cohort of teachers for the 2020 academic year. However, currently, people without existing residency permits or citizenship may not enter Qatar, making the business of moving to the country a mystery for new recruits and their employers.
Khalid, a South African national who teaches at an international secondary school in Qatar, says: “I know I have to book a quarantine package to come back but so far Discover Qatar is still advising me not to book that quarantine until I have permission to enter. And they don’t say how or when I can get permission. It’s all very confusing. Can I come back soon or not? I miss my job and my classes.”
Despite the confusion among schools and their staff, those who have objected to paying full school fees for online lessons, or who have seen a dip in the quality of their children’s learning, are celebrating the news.
Says Noora, whose two children attend one of a chain of eight international schools in Qatar: “I’m honestly just glad my kids can go back to some kind of normal so long as it’s done safely. Enough is enough. Their education is suffering. And we, as parents not teachers, cannot do the full-time job of teaching them properly at home; although we have tried our best these months.”
The Ministry added that “All schools are required to fully comply with the precautionary measures to maintain safe environments for all parties involved in the educational process.” Those measures have yet to be released but may include social distancing, additional sanitisation of facilities and reduced student numbers, as seen in schools in Dubai.