Schools adopt volunteering as an academic requirement

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Schools adopt volunteering as an academic requirement
Most students go beyond the minimum requirement for volunteering.

Dubai - The GEMS World Academy (GWA) has made volunteering mandatory for students in order for them to reach their graduation requirements.

By Sarwat Nasir

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Published: Sun 26 Nov 2017, 7:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Nov 2017, 10:08 PM

In the UAE where contributions to humanitarian causes are immense, have schools adopted the values of giving back to the nation? Have schools made volunteering a mandatory requirement for pupils? 
The President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, had declared 2017 as the 'Year of Giving', meaning acts of kindness, giving and volunteering would be the main focus for the residents and citizens. Now that the year is nearly over, what kind of lessons did students learn from the values this country's leaders instilled among the people?
The GEMS World Academy (GWA) has made volunteering mandatory for students in order for them to reach their graduation requirements. "As an IB world school, volunteering is mandatory at the GEMS World Academy at all levels. The secondary school, the middle years, diploma and career-related programmes - all have a volunteering component that is central to the students meeting their graduation requirements," said Rania Hussein, the DP language and literature teacher and senior school core coordinator at the school.
"This is part of the 'core' of the middle year, diploma and career-related programmes (MYP, DP and CP), and take the form of service and action; creativity, activity and service; and service learning. At GWA, we believe in a holistic learning experience, and an opportunity for students to apply theoretical material studied in the classroom in a real-world context. Given the material covered in the classes, we believe that there is no better way for students to apply their learning than in the context of volunteering.
"The school runs a programme dedicated to volunteering participated by all secondary school students. They are required to complete a 'service' component, where they volunteer to help their school or the wider community." 
However, the school has seen most students go beyond the minimum requirement for volunteering. "Last year, we saw students volunteered their time to run several school-based events where they raised over Dh150,000 to build a school in Nepal through Dubai Cares. During Week Without Walls, all participants participate in some sort of service component whether internationally or locally," Hussein said. 
"Students travelled to Indonesia where they worked with disenfranchised girls, others to Kenya where they help build the infrastructure for the Sasenyi Primary School, and some to Nepal where students worked at a local orphanage. Locally, GWA students can often be found volunteering at the Al Noor Centre, K9 Friends and the Emirates Marine Environment Group."
The Jumeira Baccalaureate School (JBS) also has a dedicated programme on volunteering for the middle years, called Service as Action. As part of their core syllabus, students are required to take part creativity, action and service (CAS).
"There are five stages for the students to complete a project which is investigation, preparation, action, reflection and demonstration. Students are expected to show evidence of these stages since the process of learning is more meaningful than the hours they count on 'doing good'," said Sabina Pecoraro, CAS coordinator at the school, said.
"Last year we had two students who reached out to the school community with the aim of raising 1,000 kilogrammes of rice for the Syrian refugees. These students had done all the work beforehand including permission from the Red Crescent as well as doing research and raising awareness. They raised four times their initial target. 
"We have a group of G11 girls volunteering to redesign the cleaners' workspaces in the school. This means they will run an awareness campaign for other students and get like-minded students involved."

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