• 24 January 2021
  • Author: Dr. Tariq Al Gurg

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a massive shock to the global economy, triggering the worst recession since the Great Depression according to the International Monetary Fund. It has been the deadliest pandemic since 1918, more so than diseases such as swine flu, Ebola and Sars. COVID-19 spread at an alarming speed across the world, leaving governments and businesses worrying about the length of time before a recovery and what one might look like. In the absence of medical treatments and vaccines, a time when then the world could put the virus behind it seemed far off. This uncertainty was hugely alarming for governments, the private sector and society.

While many countries across the world still suffer from the impact of the pandemic, the UAE is lucky be witnessing a rapid rebound. Most tourist attractions, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and leisure centers in the country have fully re-opened and the country is seeing a surge in visitors from abroad. Moreover, mosques, churches and temples have opened their doors for worshippers, while businesses have begun to witness a return to normalcy. Therefore, the UAE's economic recovery should be faster than in other nations, not just in the Arab world but globally. With this in mind, UAE citizens and residents witnessed how a country with strong leadership and determination can respond to such a pandemic in a responsible and safe manner. The nation has set the bar high in terms of crisis preparedness and recovery.

Starting in December 2020, the UAE health authorities launched a nationwide vaccination campaign, and over 2 million people have been inoculated since the initiative began. This number places the UAE with the second highest number of vaccines delivered for every 100 people globally. 

Citizens and residents alike have also aided recovery by at all times adhering to health and safety measures laid out by the authorities. These include mask wearing and maintaining social distancing. We cannot forget the role of frontline heroes, ranging from healthcare personnel, civil security officers, teachers and the humanitarian workers, who have worked tirelessly to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the UAE community during these challenging times. The level of commitment we have witnessed from more than 9 million people living and working in the UAE from 200 nationalities is a true reflection of what can be achieved through collaboration.

In the UAE, we have learned that preparedness is critical. One of the best examples of how a government can immediately contain a crisis is how it ensures the continuity of education. In 2012, long before Covid-19, the UAE had developed solid infrastructure for online learning platforms, in order to deliver distance learning and education. With the onset of the pandemic, and the vision of the UAE leadership, educational institutions across the UAE were able to seamlessly shift to these online platforms with relatively few disruptions to learning.

Effective leadership is the main reason the country has succeeded in confronting Covid-19, as well as quickly recovering from its effects. I commend the UAE’s wise leadership for proactively implementing bold measures that have enabled the country to respond rapidly to the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize its impact on the business community and individuals alike.

I had the chance to visit Al Ain with my family during the National Day Holiday break in early December 2020. My last visit to this heritage city was more than 15 years ago, so I was astonished by how much it had changed since. Despite being the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the fourth largest city in the UAE, Al Ain offers a real cultural taste of the country. Visitors witness a city that has been transformed into a modern and vibrant metropolis, but which has still preserved its traditional identity by converting many ancient sites to museums. The social values, culture and traditions of the Emirati way of life have also been preserved in this modern mix. I had the opportunity to interact both with citizens and residents and I was impressed to see how committed they were to safety procedures. There is no doubt that education made us all residents wherever they were in the country disciplined and aware of how to respond to the pandemic on a personal level.

As we mark today the International Day of Education, it is essential to remember that learning is one of the key pillars of sustainable development. Realising this has never been as important as it is now. With this in mind, Dubai Cares hosted RewirEdX virtual conference between 15-16 December last year to engage education leaders and practitioners in action-oriented dialogue, to re-think and re-imagine attitudes towards education and the new reality that follows a post-Covid-19 world. The virtual conference also served as a one-year countdown to the global education-focused RewirEd Summit, which will be held in-person between 12-14 December 2021, during the Knowledge & Learning week of Expo Dubai 2020. The summit, which is a collaboration between Dubai Cares and Expo 2020 Dubai, in close coordination with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC), will bring together the most prominent voices in education from around the world, to discuss how to collectively tackle the challenges facing the world of teaching and learning by exploring entirely new approaches, as well as offering participants a unique opportunity to agree on a shared vision and concrete action. In a nutshell, we hope the discussions and the action points at RewirEd Summit would be the kickstart for a 10-year countdown to reshape education by 2030, a year when all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be reviewed for their accomplishment and renewed for future development.

As we celebrate the beginning of a new year and move a step closer towards the UAE’s Golden Jubilee, I feel optimistic that Expo 2020 Dubai will demonstrate an exceptional presentation of the UAE’s journey and an opportunity to reflect on its 50 years of success, side by side with the achievements of more than 190 international participating nations. These successes would not have happened without education being the main investment by these nations. I’m confident that Expo 2020 will give people renewed hope that, through collaboration, it is possible to make a lasting change to humanity, even during difficult times.

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