In a deliberate and organized manner, the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services (SCHS) continues to provide its services remotely to students with disabilities and their families in line with international best practices. SCHS does this in light of the conditions caused by the emerging Corona virus. Therefore, the city decided to face the challenge with its experience and its keenness on its students, specialists and workers. SCHS confirms its commitment and great interest in the health safety, security and of employees using preventive measures approved by the United Arab Emirates.
In this context, the city issued a Manual of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services Readiness to Keep Working to providing services under the current circumstances. SCHS wants to ensure the continuation of providing these services in an appropriate manner that meets the needs of affiliates and to ensure that they are not interrupted according to a work system based on three main precautionary aspects (health and safety), (activating the remote work strategy for employees and facilitate their mission), (media coverage and continued communication).
Mrs. Mona Abdul Karim Al-Yafie, Director of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, talked about the measures that have been taken with regard to each of these aspects. The beginning was with the health and safety aspect. The city has taken since the beginning of the crisis a set of precautionary and preventive measures to limit the spread of the virus. The most important:
Health and safety is a priority
Raising health and safety preparedness by providing all financial resources to obtain sterilization and cleaning materials and increasing rates of comprehensive sterilization on March 1, 2020. SCHS suspended children's working hours at the Early Intervention Center and Al-Amal Kindergarten for the Deaf and their equivalents on the same date. In addition, SCHS canceled all planned activities, events and programs that on March 10. The Foundation is keen to provide the necessary resources to implement the business continuity and risk mitigation plan on March 16 by providing hotlines for agencies to request support and assistance on March 15. It made sure of the issuance of appropriate decisions at high speed to ensure workers commitment since March 22. SCHS activated the concept of self-quarantine in addition to preventing employees from traveling on March 22.
The city also activated remote work strategies for employees to facilitate their tasks by verifying the technical infrastructure of the city and the flexibility of procedures since 1 March. Then, the institute applied the attendance of employees in the flexible hour’s system on March 23, after which employees will become 100 percent working remotely with continuous monitoring and evaluation of quality and efficiency of the work.
The services are ongoing remotely
As for the second aspect, the Director of the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services indicates the continuity of the main technical services and processes remotely starting from the establishment of contingency plans for all departments, centers, schools and branches of the city on March 1, 2020. Then, SCHS created of a hotline to provide consultations on March 15 and tooke a decision to start working with remote beneficiaries On March 22nd, SCHS launched the e-learning and training platform ON https://student.schs.sharjah.ae/portal/Working according to a unified mechanism regarding visual contact with families, an action plan, feedback, reassessment and setting new goals.
The city was also very keen to prepare employees and train them on the distance-learning program during the period between 15 and 19 March 2020 and the production of informative and educational videos showing training on manufacturing means that develop the individual plans of the beneficiaries with continuous follow-up of all developments.
Fruitful communication with parents and society
With regard to the third aspect concerning media coverage and continued communication between the city and parents, SCHS communicated information and educational materials to families through social media on March 1, 2020. SCHS activated remote registration and the development of informative panels on March 17 and the conversion of all landline phone numbers to mobile numbers on 22 March.
In this context, awareness-raising and educational campaigns through social media continued as of March 17. Direct broadcasting of awareness and education for the main specialties in the city was activated, meetings were conducted through various media on March 19, video filming in sign language, an animated film directed at children and educational films on hand washing and prevention in a simplified way on March 22nd.
The updated guide includes a set of positives monitored during this phase, which is the participation of all family members in the education and training of their children, extending bridges of communication between teachers, specialists and parents, increasing opportunities for empowering parents. The entire team communicated remarkably and intensively. Training parents in a way that is not directly through educational materials, providing technical staff with new skills with techniques and processes of education and training via distance, the ability of the work team to work under the harshest and most difficult conditions for long periods, and embody the idea of working with a team spirit transnational or interdisciplinary.
The most important challenges lie in the difficulty of using technologies by some parents. Some families have difficulty in following the student's goals on the platform in addition to the inconvenience of timing for some parents and the lack of a sufficient number of devices at others challenges in providing services to students with severe and multiple disabilities in addition to cases of severe autism spectrum disorder.
Leadership in the field of distance education
Mrs. Mona said, “SCHs has a pioneering role in distance education through its online platform and educational and training videos that it has prepared in a way that suits the circumstances of the stage. As an institution concerned with persons with disabilities, it has not stopped providing services to them, their parents, and society in general for 41 years. Today, it is because of the conditions caused by the Corona virus, SCHS provided remote services and made every effort to ensure the success of distance education through teacher training and setting goals according to individual plans, as well as educational and training videos were prepared for each disability.
Parents and brothers of the disabled persons are partners in the success of the distance-learning program
Mrs. Mona Abdul Karim praised the cooperation of the parents and brothers of the disabled with the city in the distance education program. The fathers, mothers and brotherhood communicate with the city specialists and discuss the necessary steps in the process of education and training and not only through the videos that SCHS sends and broadcast, but also includes the videos sent by parents mothers and brothers to evaluate and implement their work according to best practices to reach the desired results.
She emphasized that the presence of the brothers in the home helped the cooperation of family members in the process of distance education, which slightly reduced the burden on mothers and contributed to the responsibility of all family members. Noting that it is the first time that everyone may be at home at the same time, despite the challenges, but that is why we have many positives compared to the previous times.
Parents and the brothers of disabled persons can, through online platforms, social media and approved phone numbers, contact specialists and inquire or provide notes that they deem necessary. The city was keen to organize electronic groups for the parents according to the classes and type of disability.
The development of partnership with community institutions is an essential aspect in supporting the distance-learning program
Al-Yafie also praised the cooperation of community institutions with the city in supporting the distance learning program by donating the necessary devices and technologies. She has confirmed that the city has been keen since its inception to develop and consolidate the bonds of cooperation with institutions, bodies and centers locally, regionally and globally with the aim of providing services to people with disabilities, in the context of their Inclusion, Advocacy and Empowerment, in line with best practices.
SCHS sections and branches. Coordination and cooperation to provide the best services
The Director of the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services expressed her pride in the efforts made by the city team within all departments and branches. She has confirmed that the existing cooperation and coordination between them and their keenness to provide experiences and skills to students with disabilities and their families in line with best practices is one of the most important success factors that the city seeks to achieve for its strategic goals and community service in general.
Comprehensive media plan
The Corporate Communications Department in the city has developed an information plan that keeps pace with the latest developments within the educational field to achieve the desired goals by broadcasting videos with various topics that benefit families of persons with disabilities and society in general. It include some of the basics in occupational therapy and how to choose the appropriate game, pronunciation, language and close communication in addition to the basics of sign language.
Among the most important topics that SCHS broadcast through its educational and informative videos are towards a supportive home environment free of behavioral challenges, the effects of using smart devices, and Hearing impairment resulting from the noise. The target audience of this live broadcast is all members of society in The State of the United Arab Emirates and abroad and certainly parents of persons with disabilities and workers in the field of special education.
Education for all disabilities
Al-Yafeai explained that distance education in the city includes all disabilities. The videos that SCHS prepares, sends and publishes include various services directed to all ages from the age of early intervention to the upper ages because education does not know certain limits and is one of the rights advocated by international organizations interested in the affairs of people with disabilities.
Through the distance education program, the city broadcasts awareness, educational and training videos for students and their parents. The city organized a lecture via video through the Zoom app. To tell parents things about the basics of distance education SCHS organized a lecture on music therapy program. The city will apply global best practices in the field of distance education and access to the desired results in this area.
In conclusion, the city is keen, through the videos it broadcasts, on the educational, training and awareness aspects, as it is directed to all students in various departments and branches and is not limited to academic skills, but the city is keen on preparing technical and sports videos, housekeeping videos and improving the recitation of the Holy Quran. The basic idea lies in educating the community In general and parents in particular about the techniques and strategies for education and training for persons with disabilities.