UAE physical education teacher in $1 million global award list

Riadh Zammali teaches at Abu Dhabi’s Gyathi Centre Zayed Higher Organisation. Supplied photo
Riadh Zammali teaches at Abu Dhabi’s Gyathi Centre Zayed Higher Organisation. Supplied photo
Lamya Butt, a student at Dubai Scholars Private School. Supplied photo
Lamya Butt, a student at Dubai Scholars Private School. Supplied photo

Dubai - Student from Dubai also makes it to list for $100,000 prize


Saman Haziq

Published: Thu 9 Sep 2021, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Thu 9 Sep 2021, 11:06 AM

A physical education (PE) teacher from Abu Dhabi, and a 17-year-old student from Dubai have been named in the top 50 list of contenders for the prestigious Global Teacher Prize and Global Student Prize, respectively.

While PE teacher Riadh Zammali has been included in the top 50 shortlist for the $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 in partnership with Unesco, teenager Lamya Butt from Dubai Scholars Private School, has been named in the top 50 shortlist for its new sister award, the Global Student Prize 2021.

Now in its seventh year, the $1 million Global Teacher Prize is the largest prize of its kind, while the Global Student Prize, which is in its inaugural year, will see the winning student receive $100,000.

A passionate teacher

Tunisian national Riadh was selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world. He grew up with a passion to help school pupils, develop their skills and character through PE. Working in rural areas of Tunisia, where there is little infrastructure or equipment to practise PE, he launched and led a number of PE school clubs, as well as the first sports associations for girls. Currently Riadh is teaching at Abu Dhabi’s Gyathi Centre Zayed Higher Organisation.

Later, at the Ghayathi Center for Special Needs in the UAE, he introduced innovative new approaches to SEN sports – and in 2019, he presented the Microsoft Educational Programme for people with disabilities for the first time in the region. As a result, Riadh’s students have since won more than 100 national and international sports prizes.

His school has also forged new links throughout the region that will help it integrate more special education (SEN) students, winning Best SEN Public Centre in Abu Dhabi for 2020-2021.

In 2020, Riadh won Best Teacher in Abu Dhabi public centres for people with disabilities, and was additionally nominated for the Mohamed bin Zayed Award for Best Gulf Teacher for the final evaluation. If he wins the Global Teacher Prize, Riadh says he will launch an association to support children with disabilities by using specially adapted smart learning, augmented and virtual reality tools.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.

A resilient Pakistani student

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Pakistani national Lamya Butt, who is a student at Dubai Scholars Private School, has been included in the top 50 shortlisted for the Global Student Prize 2021, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world.

Lamya is the first Teen Advisor from the UAE for the United Nations Foundation Girl Up initiative and MENA Regional Leader. Lamya is also the founder and CEO of the youth initiative Resilient Together, which works with international philanthropic organisations to provide ICT devices for 20,000 UAE students forced into distance learning by Covid – work that has received international coverage and attention. Winning the Global Student Prize would mean that she is able to fund her university studies and expand Resilient Together into podcasts and video platforms.

Congratulating Riadh and Lamya, Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Their stories clearly highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”

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