Gwyneth Pritchard, from the cold hills of Wales, learnt about multiculturalism in the best possible way.
Marrying an Emirati student she came to know while studying at Cardiff University in the early 1970s, Ms Pritchard moved to Abu Dhabi in 1980.
A trained teacher, she started her own pre-school called Little Smarties Nursery and Pre-School in Abu Dhabi in 2007 with nine children. Here, she talks about what makes her nursery special.
With so many nurseries around what is your unique selling point?
Through the nursery we reach out to Emiratis and expatriates alike. I believe there is a need for parents and children to be able to connect more in the Emirates, not just with their own expatriate group but with people from all corners of the globe.
We are very much pro-active in the Khalifa City community, holding social gatherings from family evenings, "movie on the lawn" at the nursery, to "health nights", where doctors and specialists are invited to give informal demos and talks about any subject related to childhood. We also have "cross-cultural evenings".
How many nationalities do you have now?
I have 180 children and 43 nationalities such as Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, Turkish, European, American and, of course, Emiratis.
How do you publicise your business?
Last year, a lot of nurseries mushroomed everywhere. But choosing a nursery is an individual choice. I never give advertisement during the year [only for the school's summer programme in July and August].
Any plans to expand?
The nursery accepts children from 12 months to 4 years of age. Since 2010, we have been taking babies as young as 45 days. Due to parent demand, we are looking at another nursery in a different location. This would cater especially to working mothers because so many ladies across cultures are looking for work. Plus, you hear horrific stories of nannies. But we will not increase the number of students at the existing nursery. We are looking for the right location with the right size rooms … [and] a lawn.
What is the teacher to children ratio at your nursery?
Last year, I started taking babies, less than a year old. If requested, I will take [them] from two months. We have one nurse for a baby.
For two-year-olds and below, we have three students to one teacher, who we call a care giver. For three-year-olds, we have around five students to one teacher. And for four-year-olds, we have eight to one teacher and we do not take more than 16 students in a class.
What are the challenges?
The demand is huge. I have 100 children on the waiting list.