The article From Afghanistan to the UAE via Pakistan: the journey of a gemstone (February 20) was a fascinating journey indeed. Pakistan's northern areas are known for the precious stone trade. In fact, Swat, much in the news lately, has been a centre of the emerald trade for centuries. The government's concern for developing some key local industries could have prevented so much bloodshed. Such industries have a ready market and simple techniques for production and transport, and do not require billions of dollars in foreign aid. Only some imagination and good managerial sense is needed. Athar Mian, Abu Dhabi
In reference to the article Study says UAE companies shirk social responsibilities (February 23), corporate social responsibility (CSR) is, especially in tough times, seen as a luxury. Not many businesses can afford to make major donations or set up a welfare fund. Some organisations are still donating and advertising this fact heavily as part of their CSR, but it is not. It is a part of their marketing strategy.
Social responsibility should instead start at the basics these days. Who needs an environmental audit to determine that round-the-clock construction noise is harmful to the people having to live with it? Invest in noise insulation at your site and noise awareness training for your workers rather than a faraway charity. No one needs to conduct a social audit to find out what the impact is if an organisation doesn't pay its contractors' invoices so they in return can't pay their workers' salaries, their suppliers and their staff. This kind of corporate social responsibility has an immediate and farther reaching impact than donating to charity. You are actually feeding hundreds of families, sending their kids to school and giving them a roof over their heads. CSR can be easily put into practice without venturing far afield. Charity starts with the person next to you. Nina Hoffmann, Dubai
Marten Youssef's opinion piece From immigrant to expatriate to my own identity (February 24) was an excellent article and I have to say that I relate so much to the feelings he expressed. As a Canadian national of Palestinian origin, I encountered the same issues in both Canada and the UAE. I often feel that I can connect to many nationalities due to what I had to go through and the nature of today's culture. Whether it is Canada or the UAE, we seem to live in what the author described as a United Nations. A place that is full of diversity, where people from all walks of life blend in together to make a cultural mosaic.
However not everyone out there is willing to leave his bubble and learn about how "others" live their lives and to understand their customs and traditions. This may happen because those people find no need. But our situation forced us to leave our bubble and learn about others. I am very thankful for my disposition and proud of the identity that I have developed over the years. Wissam Halawani, Abu Dhabi
I refer to the article Remedial English to end (February 23). The Ministry of Education needs a reality check. The foundation departments in the federal universities are staffed mainly by native English speakers who do an excellent job in preparing national students for diploma and degree programmes. The public schools are not equipped to do this and it would take years before they can reach a similar standard. If this plan is implemented prematurely, thousands of young Emirati men and women will lose out on the chance for a better future. Charles C, Dubai
The article contains the quote: "The ministry intends to immediately start plans to eliminate foundations programmes." Does that mean ending the foundation programme structure right away? What happens to the many who are in-between? "Ill advised" may well be an understatement, especially for thousands of young Emiratis and their bewildered parents. I can understand how this might, possibly with variation, be the right way to go for the long term. This extreme step has to be thought through thoroughly and properly, studying its long-term consequences, rather than suddenly implemented. Ramgopal Dass, India
If only changing language policy in an education system were as simple as passing an edict! My recent experience of teaching at a federal university in the UAE suggests that what the students need is a strong foundation in bilingual education at both the high school and the early college level. This will boost the students' sense of accomplishment and prepare them for a global economy. Poonam Arora, US