Emirati Academics laud Zayed’s focus on education

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UAE’s founding father launched several initiatives to promote country’s education sector including building schools, free tuition and nation’s first university.

Abu Dhabi: Building schools, offering free tuition, and encouraging education for both male and female students — these are some of the many initiatives of Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan to ensure a flourishing education system in the UAE, said Emirati academics.

“Shaikh Zayed was always committed to having a good education system, it was one of his main priorities when he established the UAE and it was this dedication that has led us to where we are now today — among the world’s leading countries when it comes to education,” said Dr Rasheed Al Hammadi, who worked in the country’s education sector for 25 years, including a stint as director of curriculum.




“One of the great things he did at the start was to provide free education at schools for all nationals. This is a philosophy that continues to this day,” he added.

“Shaikh Zayed would also visit schools to see how students were performing, talk to them and teachers, encouraging them to do their best. This was a great morale-booster, it showed how much he cared,” Al Hammadi said.

Not just committed to having many schools, Shaikh Zayed was also keen on creating a thriving higher education sector, according to Al Hammadi, with the establishment of the country’s first university, the UAE University (UAEU) — in 1976.

“This was to encourage nationals to start getting their higher education degrees and to also advance areas of research. The first batches of students at the university were given monthly stipends to encourage them to stay and finish their studies. In 1984, the university opened its College of Medicine, a major milestone for the UAE. A lot of current practising doctors in [the] UAE have graduated from this school and it is all thanks to Shaikh Zayed’s vision,” he added.


Al Hammadi said that young nationals were also supported through scholarship programmes to go and study abroad, of which he himself also benefitted.

“I was awarded a scholarship to go and study in Canada during the 1980s — they would provide us with living and education expenses.

“These programmes continue even now, but they were started thanks to Shaikh Zayed who encouraged Emiratis to go abroad and get their qualifications so they could come back and benefit their country,” he added.

Dr Fatima Al Darmaki, dean of Students Affairs at Zayed University, also spoke on the importance of creating opportunities for young Emiratis to get an education.

“Shaikh Zayed was always interested in having a strong education sector. He built many schools in the UAE, including in remote areas, and encouraged parents to send their children to schools to receive an education.

“All children who attended schools — male and female — were provided with support to attend free classes.

“The students were also given free transportation to take them to the schools along with other necessary services like school clinics,” she added.

“When it came to higher education, he played a very big role as well, establishing what was then the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Thanks to these efforts, a number of universities were built.

“Today when we look at the country’s private and public education sector in both schools and universities, we see a great development with a high number of students successfully completing their studies.

“Nationals who have graduated from our education system now fill many of our senior leadership positions, contributing to the country’s continued success and development. All of this would not have been possible without the vision of Shaikh Zayed,” she added.

The current chairman of Smartworld and an Emirati academic who worked in the faculty of engineering at UAE University for 10 years, Dr Saeed Al Daheri said that Shaikh Zayed was keen to ensure that the curricula at both schools and universities met the needs of a modern country.

“In 1988, I was selected from the UAE to attend a space programme course at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and at the time this was something new for our country. Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, was the chancellor of UAE University at the time and he told me that the leadership, including Shaikh Zayed, was very interested in what I was doing because he had a future goal of making space science a reality for the UAE.

“And this was part of Shaikh Zayed’s visionary leadership, a lot of important subjects on sciences and math — which are essential to taking the country forward were introduced in schools and universities, and that’s why I was even able to get selected for a space programme at MIT, because I was an engineering student,” he added.



“When our education system was still new, a lot of teachers from places like Egypt, Syria and Jordan were brought to the UAE. Shaikh Zayed also opened the country to private education systems. So he was putting in place all the corners of a strong and successful foundation for the education sector, and this is evident from what we see today.”

Shaikh Zayed’s vision also included different people living and working together peacefully, and building country together, Al Daheri said.

Source: Gulf News