Deema Alalami, Vice President – Arabic & Islamic, GEMS Education, discusses some of the steps that schools take to support students who fast over the Holy Month of Ramadan.
During the month of Ramadan students who are fasting may find it challenging to get through a school day without eating or drinking, and it is important for schools to ensure the students’ well-being during the school day.
GEMS Education schools follow the Ministry of Education’s directives in terms of school timing, which is shortened to ensure students can go home and rest before Iftar. That is the law and all schools abide by that, according to Deema Alalami, Vice President – Arabic & Islamic, GEMS Education.
Secondly, upon arriving at GEMS Education schools, new teachers attend GEMS Awareness Day, which includes cultural sessions where they learn about the expectation around Ramadan. Closer to Ramadan the schools also send out a memo of what is expected during the month, what to do, what not to do, and how to be respectful and tolerant.
Deema said that further support of students that are fasting includes the schools designating closed areas for students and staff who don’t fast for them to enjoy their meals so fasting students do not feel tempted and the day won’t seem longer by seeing other people enjoy their meals.
“Schools also accommodate students during dance and music classes. The PE teachers assign different tasks for those students who cannot run around playing soccer for an hour and a half. They review the task and assign something else for those students to do that is still related to PE but does not require the same physical effort from the students,” said Deema.
Many school activities during that month revolve around the community and celebrating Ramadan. Often schools have a community-based Iftar where parents, teachers, and the students join.
“This year is a good opportunity to link Ramadan with the Year of Tolerance because it’s an opportunity to look at how we can give back to the community. The beautiful thing is we have many nationalities and religions, but in this month, everyone comes together to celebrate,” said Deema.
She added that she loves visiting schools during Ramadan because the whole learning environment is geared around celebrating the month, and a large amount of charity work takes place which highlights and encourages people to practice values that are transferable across cultures such as patience and empathy.