• 9 July 2020
  • Author: Dr. Tariq Al Gurg

Last week marked the end of the academic year in the UAE, and I would like to take this opportunity to express how proud I am as a UAE citizen whose sole day-to-day job revolves around education. I would also like to commend the UAE’s wise leadership for their tremendous efforts in maintaining education as a top priority and a national objective in the wake of the COVID-19 global health crisis. The pandemic forced 192 countries to close down schools and universities, affecting more than 1.5 billion school-aged children and youth, which represent around 90% of the world’s student population. 60 million teachers were no longer in the classroom. Under these exceptional circumstances, the UAE leadership has immediately contained the crisis by taking appropriate actions and directing education and academic institutions to apply a distance learning approach as an alternative to schooling, while maintaining the health and safety of students and school community.

Thanks to the UAE’s Ministry of Education’s dedication and commitment, 1.2 million students across the UAE were able to continue their education seamlessly and safely.  The distance learning model implemented by the Ministry has proven to be an effective and enriching experience for students, teachers, and parents. Through its state-of-the-art technological infrastructure and the flexibility to develop proactive solutions and keep pace with changes and emergencies, the UAE has become a role model for other countries in the world.

As a testimony of how a government entity and a philanthropic organization can work together to contribute to the wellbeing of the community, the Ministry of Education in partnership with Dubai Cares has successfully launched “Education Uninterrupted”, a nationwide campaign that aims to tackle the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the education of children and youth in the UAE. The campaign called upon the UAE community to make financial and in-kind donations in support of children and youth from low-income families who cannot afford ICT devices and tools, including laptops and computers to join their peers to pursue their education from home. I am sure that this excellent example of synergy has been seen in other sectors where different stakeholders have worked collaboratively to overcome the pandemic’s impact.

We also greatly appreciate the efforts of the 42,000 teachers in the UAE who continued to deliver high-quality education to students during the COVID-19 outbreak, thereby joining doctors, nurses, and medical staff in being the community’s first line of defense in these critical times. They have shown dedication and decisive action towards addressing the impacts of COVID-19 on education and protecting the right to uninterrupted learning of all UAE students.

The futuristic vision of the UAE’s leadership has made the education system of the country sustainable and resilient, where thousands of students did not lose track and miss a single day from their academic year.  With changes accelerating around us, it is essential to prepare ourselves as a nation for the coming years as 2020 is the year of preparations for the next 50 years. For the next five decades, we need to create transformations, overcome emerging challenges, rejuvenate ideas, and ensure a better future for our current and next generations.

No doubt that the course of the pandemic has left significant impact on all sectors of the global economy. The COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a major health crisis; however, not all families in the world have been affected health-wise by the pandemic. On the contrary, the disruption to education has impacted lives at almost every single home in the world.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of developing immediate solutions to minimize the impact of the pandemic on education, so the education systems around the world are better prepared to respond to large-scale disruptions in the future.

This pandemic has not only shaken the whole world, but it also jolted UN organizations and global financing mechanisms to react quickly to protect the most important asset and investment for the future, which is education. UNESCO launched the Global Education Coalition for COVID-19 Response to provide swift and coordinated support to countries, ensuring minimal disruption to education and that no child is left behind. UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited’s drive to scale up digital connectivity and provide equitable access to remote learning for all children and youth in the world will also play an integral role in reducing the widening inequality that the lack of access to digital connectivity has resulted in. Dubai Cares is fortunate to have been selected to join these initiatives and play an important role in shaping these two platforms. For a global philanthropic organization that focuses over a third of its programming on safeguarding education in unstable contexts, we at Dubai Cares see that digital connectivity is central to ensuring the continuity of learning.

As the UAE continues to play a pivotal role in redefining education, I would like to once again commend our wise leadership and it’s Government for ensuring a sustainable learning process across the country, and thank the teachers, students and parents for their instrumental role in the successful results achieved so far through the distance learning system.

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