'This is a generation of changes," said Fawzia Rahma, the head of the family development department at the Ministry of Social Affairs. "The difference between now and before is like the difference between the earth and the sky."
The UAE's young people have witnessed massive change during their lifetimes. Whether this has been for better or worse depends on what becomes of them. If the nation's young people are to grow into compassionate adults and active citizens, committed to the public good, it will take more than teachers, nannies or government initiatives. It is parents who have the strongest influence on shaping the future of their children - and of the nation.
Prosperity has brought incredible opportunity but also increased complexity and often difficulty when it comes to parenting. As The National reported yesterday, many parents feel besieged by the imperatives of modern life. While Xbox and PlayStation may substitute for supervision, they cannot replace parental care and instruction. If anything, steering children away from today's temptations and additional distractions makes parenting harder than before.
Adults too are challenged in new ways by the often competing demands of professional and family life. As many more women enter the workforce, there is a fine balancing act. Many parents turn to domestic staff to help to manage this balance, but this does not change the basic responsibilities of parenting. The assistance of nannies may be welcome, but the care and affection of parents, and the passing on of one generation's lesson's to the next, can only be found inside the family.
The nation's schools are undergoing a push for reform but there is only so much that the Government can do, particularly when the lack of parental involvement is often the first complaint of teachers in the UAE. More parent-teacher associations and parental engagement in the children's education at home are required. A teacher can develop the best lesson plans, but they will fall on deaf ears if parents do not support them.
Yes, much has changed since Sheikh Zayed founded the UAE, but not the essential ingredients of what makes a nation strong. Indeed, the importance of the principles he embodied - tolerance, faithfulness and hard work - are timeless. The father of the nation lived these values; it now falls upon the nation's mothers and fathers to ensure that they are passed down to their children.