Thanking, honouring veteran teachers in the UAE

Top Stories

Thanking, honouring veteran teachers in the UAE
Shaikh mohammed presents the Global Teacher Prize award to Hanan al Hroub in Dubai on Sunday; at his left is Sunny Varkey, chairman of Gems Foundation. - Wam

Dubai/Sharjah - Khaleej Times caught up with schoolteachers in the UAE who've spent several decades teaching in their respective schools.


Dhanusha Gokulan

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sun 19 Jun 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 20 Jun 2016, 8:55 AM

From genuine passion for the job to knowing that their former students now have successful careers, these teachers say that even though sometimes it is a tiring and often thankless job, it is still worthwhile in the end. Each of these teachers have held on to their careers because "everyday was different", and "everyday was a challenge".
Khaleej Times caught up with schoolteachers in the UAE who've spent several decades teaching in their respective schools. Here is the first part of a two-part series.
Zakiya Omran, Palestinian, Arabic Supervisor, Our Own English High School, Sharjah
Zakiya has spent 44 years of her teaching career within the GEMS Education Group. Hailing from Gaza in Palestine, Zakiya's family left the country to escape civil strife. "I used to work as a teacher in Gaza. However, I arrived in Dubai in 1972 and I joined Madame Varkey as an Arabic teacher in Our Own English High School, Dubai, in the Al Bastakiya area," she said.
According to Zakiya, the school began with 75 students and four teachers. "The school was later moved to Oud Metha in Dubai." Zakiya was shifted to Cambridge School in 1983, where she served as Head of Arabic. "In 1991, I left Cambridge and joined Our Own English High School, Ajman, and moved with them in 1993, when the school was shifted to Sharjah," she said.
Zakiya acknowledged and paid her respects to the Varkey family, saying that she had many opportunities to move, but she chose not to. "I am comfortable and happy here. The family has given me a lot. I have seen the group and the schools grow and I want to retire from here," she added.
Today Zakiya continues to supervise Arabic teaching and learning in the school. "Sometimes my former students come to meet me and I am happy to realise that they are doing so well and are all successful. There are times when I've taught my children's children, and in rare cases, their grandkids," she laughed.
"I think that the future of education is bright, and I want to see more Indian children speak Arabic."
May Barretto, KG Supervisor, Indian High School, Dubai (junior school)
KG school supervisor May Barretto had spent 37 years teaching tiny tots at the Indian High School, Dubai. Located in Garhoud, the Indian High School junior school is home to Grades KG to 4. She joined IHS in 1979.
"With a diploma in education, I taught kindergarten and grade one students in Fatima Devi English High School in Bombay for 10 years before flying to Dubai," she said. "I've always wanted to be a teacher. Even when I was a child, I would use a chalk and scribble on boards, and instruct smaller children on what to do etc.," she added. That passion translated into her love for staying around smaller children. "I feel you don't get the same kind of love, hugs and kisses that you get from smaller children anywhere else," she said.
Barretto bid adieu to the school a few weeks ago and will return to her hometown Mumbai to continue teaching kids with special needs there by the end of June 2016. "My own kids have grown up and are doing well. I don't want to stop teaching. I think this will serve me well," she added.
She said: "Teachers take the place of mothers in schools. Young teachers now need to develop a deep bond and love with the students that will help motivate them. Teachers draw energy from the students, there are so many times when I've been down in the dumps and when I came to school and received the bright wishes from the tiny ones, it made my day."
Abraham Prakash, Teaching and learning Principal, Indian High School, Dubai
Abraham Prakash's illustrious career as teacher began 27 years ago. "I saw an advertisement for the position of a teacher in a newspaper back home 27 years ago. I applied for it and joined as a physics teacher back then and my relationship with the school has continued since," said Prakash.
Prakash was born in Kochi, Kerala, India, and spent the first 14 years of his teaching career in Nigeria's first University - Ahmadu Bello University. After that he served as a proctor at the Naval Public School in Kochi. He moved to Indian High School in 1989 as the Head of the Department of Science and Technology and said that he deeply misses teaching students ever since he has taken up a more administrative position. "Up until I was the academic coordinator, I had the time and flexibility to teach. I miss that a lot," he added.
Prakash is a man ahead of his times and has been an integral part of making the school tech-friendly and encouraging students to use technology as learning tools. Prakash fondly looks back at a memory when one of the school students became the first student in history to score a 100 in Accountancy for the Grade 12 CBSE examinations.
He said: "Everyday has been a proud moment and there have been so many 11th hour miracles in the school. Students who've done terribly in their model exams passed with flying colours under our supervision. All of that and so much more is indeed a wonderful achievement."

303- Abraham Prakash
303- Abraham Prakash
367- May Barretto
367- May Barretto
345- Zakiya Omran
345- Zakiya Omran

More news from