DUBAI // The country's top-performing Grade 12 pupils have been awarded laptops and Dh100,000 each in a ceremony sponsored by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
Draped in scarves bearing the colours of the national flag, the 52 pupils proudly made their way on to a stage at the Grand Hyatt hotel to receive their prizes from the Minister of Education, Humaid Al Qattami.
Many Emiratis were among the 34 female and 18 male recipients, with the rest from countries including Yemen, Palestine, Egypt, Australia, Britain and Iraq.
"This ceremony has become an annual tradition which Sheikh Mohammed offers to distinguished students out of respect for their efforts and for being able to make it to place number one," Mr Al Qattami told the gathering.
Speaking on behalf of the other students, one top performer, Ayesha, said: "We promise each and every one who has contributed to our success to be more successful in the future so we could be useful to our country."
Abdullah Ahmed, the first among Emiratis in the science stream, said young men his age had to prove they could succeed in the same way as girls were doing.
"The problem is that boys have more distractions than girls because they have a wider margin of freedom and can easily spend more time on other things," he said.
"I want to tell boys that the girls are not smarter or better. We have abilities which can take us far but we need to work harder and be more determined."
Abdullah, from Fujairah, scored 99.6 per cent overall and learnt the good news about his results from Sheikh Mohammed himself, who called him to congratulate him of his achievement.
"I was shocked. I did not know what to say, they just told me that he wants to speak to me to congratulate me on my success," Abdullah said.
The Ministry of Education's final secondary school exams were taken by 37,011 pupils this year.
"I feel so proud of what I have achieved and I will never forget this year in my life," said Sarah Alemadi, who came first in the country in the arts stream. "I hope I will remain on this path for the rest of my life.
Sarah, from Dubai, who scored 99.75 per cent overall, plans to study international relations and dreams of becoming a diplomat.
"I love fame and I hope I could become an ambassador or even a minister," she said.
She has been awarded a scholarship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to study international relations at the American University of Sharjah.
"I really want to put the name of my country high through my achievements," she said.
Sarah is aware that parts of society are still not used to women in conventional jobs, but her family is behind her. "They said they will support me in any decision I take," she said.
Another top performer hoping to study international relations is ?Fatim Darbol, who came first in the arts stream in Ras Al Khaimah with an overall average of 98.9 per cent.
"I want to study international relations at Sharjah University," she said. "I found this specialisation because I am interested in relations between countries and their history."
Fatim said she had also devised a backup plan in case things did not go to plan.
"I know that as a woman I might face problems in entering the labour market. If I find this field difficult I will shift and study English literature," she said.