UAE frontline workers save thousands in school fees under government initiative

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Frontline workers in the UAE are saving tens of thousands of dirhams a year on school fees for their children under a government initiative created to support them.

Almost 2,000 medics treating Covid-19 patients have been enrolled in the Hayyakum programme that launched last month.

Among them is Dr Abeer Darwish, a Syrian paediatrician at Mediclinic Al Mussaffah in Abu Dhabi, who looked after children with Covid-19 while also carrying out her regular duties.

I’m going to save Dh40,000 yearly and that’s a lot for me

Dr Abeer Darwish, Mediclinic Al Mussaffah

Two of her five children, Rand, 8, and Raghad, 12, are registered under the initiative and have begun studies at Maryam Bin Omran School and Madinat Baniyas School in grades 3 and 7, respectively.

“I’m going to save Dh40,000 yearly and that’s a lot for me,” Dr Darwish, 44, told The National.

“I have five children and we were paying a lot before. The government benefits has relieved much of our financial stress.”

The scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, laptops and transportation for pupils until they graduate from high school. They scholarships can only be used at public schools.

Her eldest son, Baraa, graduated from school last year, her second daughter, Roaa, did not want to transfer schools because she is in her final year and the youngest, Zakaria, is in kindergarten.

Between school payments, house rent and other bills, Dr Darwish said expenses usually exceed what she and her dentist husband can afford.

Emirati Afra Al Dhaheri is a vet and owns the capital's Cloud9 Pet Hotel. She offers free board and services for the pets of medical staff fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Victor Besa / The National

Emirati Aysha Al Blooshi is an advanced paramedic and her colleague Marwan Al Mansoori, from Yemen, is an emergency responder. Both work at the Corporation for Ambulance Services. Leslie Pableo for The National

Faisal Kamil, a father of three from Sudan, is a quality control manager at City Transport in Abu Dhabi. His team sanitises buses in the capital to ensure essential workers can get to supermarkets and hospitals. Victor Besa / The National

Leen Fares, from Syria, is a chemist. The Dubai resident has twice the number of customers and works long days to sure they get the medicine they need. Reem Mohammed / The National

Navas Ellias, from India, is a taxi driver. He says the public have been positive about him remaining at the wheel to take people on essential journeys to supermarkets, pharmacies and hospitals. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Faqir Mohammad, from Pakistan, is a gardener. Temperatures are taken at his housing accommodation to eliminate the spread of the virus. Reem Mohammed / The National

Emirati doctor Fatima Al Kaabi, from Abu Dhabi's SKMC, works 12 to 18 hours a day and is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Victor Besa / The National

Taha Hussein, from Egypt, is a barber at the Hair & Beard gents' salon near Ibn Batutta Mall in Dubai. He uses disposable capes and blades, as well as hand sanitiser, to protect his customers. Pawan Singh / The National

Bandana Rai, from Nepal, is a cashier at Lulu Hypermarket, Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi. It is among the few stores allowed open to ensure shoppers can get essentials. She says she feels safe because the company has installed thermal scanners and has given staff gloves and masks. Victor Besa / The National

Mutaz Kamal, from Jordan, is the manager at Souq Planet in Abu Dhabi's Etihad Plaza. Souq Planet's owners also make cleaning products, meaning his shop is well stocked with hand sanitiser. Victor Besa / The National

Dr Valerie Battistella, from France, is a vet at the Vienna Veterinary Clinic in Dubai. "The public has been surprised that we are open but also very very grateful." Chris Whiteoak / The National

Mohammad Sajid Ali, from India, is an alphamed technician with the Tadweer sterilisation team in Abu Dhabi. He says: "I do my job for the children; I want to keep them safe." Victor Besa / The National

Left to right: Soyab Bhasea, from India and Mohammad Zayed, from Pakistan, are delivery drivers for a distribution company, delivering goods to supermarkets and warehouses. Mohammad says: "I have to continue my work in these times. Allah hafiz [God will protect us]." Reem Mohammed / The National

Muhammad Asif, from Pakistan, is a security guard at the Movenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel in Dubai. “I ask the delivery men to leave the packages outside and I bring it in. I cannot take any risks," he says. "We have many long-term occupants and a great number of them are elderly.” Pawan Singh / The National

Omar Edehmen, from Morrocco, is the head butcher at Souq Planet in Abu Dhabi. He says: "The first thing I do before I go to my work area is to thoroughly wash my hands before putting on my gloves. When I remove my gloves, I use hand sanitiser. If I know I touched something out of the work area, I wash my hands again before putting a new pair of gloves. A face mask is also always used when in the work area." Victor Besa / The National

Sanjay Kumar, from India, is a food delivery driver. He says: "Now, wherever I deliver the food, I leave the food package at the security reception or at the reception of the building, as customers are paying for the orders online. We are also using face masks, gloves, and washing and sanitising our hands regularly for safety." Sanjay works at the Indian restaurant Manvaar near Karama Fish Market in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Servesh Yadav, from India, is an Abu Dhabi free zone maintenance worker. Such crews ensure the ports can work around the clock to keep vital supplies coming in. Victor Besa / The National

Bam Babhdur, from Nepal, is a cleaner at the Khalidiyah Mall. He says: "I have protective equipment to keep safe. I am not scared; I am doing my duty." Victor Besa / The National

“When they told me the news, I felt great. I felt like we are part of the UAE community and the government is there to help us,” she said.

“I’m from Syria, but we haven’t been back to our home for nearly 11 years. It feels like we are living in our second home here in the UAE.”

Dr Darwish worked eight-hour shifts at the clinic from April to July, when she treated patients and ensured children with Covid-19 and others remained in separate parts of the building.

Precautionary measures across the UAE were in place during most of that time – including stay-home orders, closure of entertainment venues and capacity limits in shops – to contain the spread of the virus.

While, Covid-19 cases dropped down to as low as 164 in early August, the number has increased more than nine-fold since.

“It’s been difficult because we work on the frontlines and there’s always a worry of ‘what if we are bringing the virus home to our family?’” said Dr Darwish.

Coronavirus outbreak

Majed Al Fadhl, a consultant surgeon in Al Ain, has also received benefits under the programme.

His two sons have been granted full school scholarships until graduation.

“I received a personal call from the Ministry of Education, telling me that two of my sons have been accepted in government schools and granted full scholarships for the whole school duration, as I had worked on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic," he said.

"My family and I are very happy about that."

To date, 1,850 healthcare workers have received financial support under Hayyakum, launched by the Ministry of Education and Frontline Heroes Office.

Updated: October 13, 2020 11:39 AM

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