'Ready to make sacrifices': Meet Dubai students who excel in both academics and sports

KHDA's Rahhal programme helped them catch up in school


Nandini Sircar

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Akshat Rai
Akshat Rai

Published: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 5:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 19 Jul 2022, 6:26 PM

The “disruptive innovation” in education - the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) Rahhal programme - has allowed many UAE students not only to score big in their ICSE board exams this year but also to study part-time to pursue other goals elsewhere.

However, there is a need to “sacrifice”, as the students told Khaleej Times. They explained what helped them navigate through various challenges while they aced both at academics and sports.

15-year-old Akshat Rai, a student of Gems Modern Academy (GMA), who is currently a member of the UAE Under-16 National Cricket Camp, has scored a 98 per cent in five subjects in the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE, Class X) exams.

“My ambition is to play for the UAE National Team,” avers Akshat. But that is not all - he also aspires to study Computer Science at Oxford in a couple of years from now.

“It’s going to take a lot of sacrifices and I am ready to make those sacrifices. With the backing that I have received from my teachers and parents I feel I am ready to take on those challenges. Whenever I’ve been free from cricket I’ve always studied.”

He adds, “The Rahhal programme has helped me a lot, especially when it came to catching up with work done in schools. Assessments and notes were given to me to help catch up with whatever I missed. During one of my preliminary exams, the U16 Inter-Emirate Cricket Tournament was going on. But because of the Rahhal programme I was able to redo the exams I had missed. Scoring well in those gave me a lot of confidence during the board exams.”

Akshat has represented the UAE against the Lancashire Women’s Team, earning the Player of The Match award. He also played against Simply Cricket Academy in the Desert Cubs Premier League representing Desert Cubs Cricket Academy Under 16, scoring 101 runs off 97 balls not out, earning the Player of The Match award then as well.

Shrey Sethi
Shrey Sethi

Shrey Sethi too is in the UAE national camp for U16 and U19. He had to play in a match the evening before his ICSE Mathematics exam - and scored 90 per cent anyway.

“The Rahhal programme really helped me throughout my examinations, providing me with worksheets and materials that were required to study and to prepare me for the examinations. It was not just the exams but even throughout the year my school was always there to support me. So, I am really grateful for that,” says the GMA student, who at the age of 11 realised that cricket was a passion that he wished to pursue professionally.

Shedding light on the challenges along the way he says, “It’s never easy to do both. So there have been hurdles. You must sacrifice a lot of things. This includes going out with friends, watching movies and other fun things that others would typically do. You sacrifice because you want to be good at both… and perform well on both fronts. But I feel it’s all worth it now.”

Talking about his plans after he finishes school, Shrey who has already toured countries like Australia, England, India, and Sri Lanks, wants to go to a country that is big in cricket, “I’d like to go to Australia, the UK or India later after I finish Grade XII.”

Shourya Raj
Shourya Raj

Another GMA student, Shourya Raj, struck the perfect balance between training and learning. He opined that the Rahhal programme opted by his school has been instrumental not only in his success but for many others like him pursuing other sports.

Like his peers, Shourya reiterates that his school fully supported all students to catch up on missed studies, by dedicating teachers and classes for pupils like him.

The 15-year-old who has got admission into the prestigious Millfield and Taunton Schools in UK on scholarship for his cricketing skills, will be enrolling in Taunton Somerset UK in the September 2022 batch in the lower sixth.

Elucidating on his journey, he says, “The Rahhal programme by KHDA has been a huge help because it helped me manage cricket, the sport I love pursuing, and studies equally well. I would often miss school for practice and games, but I could easily cover up as my teachers helped me a lot during breaks and lunch time. There were different worksheets that were given to me so that I could catch up in academics and at the same time do not miss sports.”

He adds, “I’d like to thank our Principal as the Rahhal programme is a part of our school unlike many others. It has helped not only me but several others who play different sports. I spent three to four hours every day in the gym practising so it often became difficult for me to attend school every day. But this support due to the Rahhal programme really helped me.”


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