x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Al Gharbia institute opens doors to education

The Government earmarks Dh98 billion for education in the region over the next five years as Madinat Zayed welcomes its first students.

A new training institute offering vocational courses to school- leavers and mature students opened yesterday, making it easier for Emiratis from Al Gharbia to pursue higher education in their home region. Two hundred students have enrolled at the Vocational Education and Training Institute (Veti) Madinat Zayed, but staff said many more wanted to study there. Apart from Madinat Zayed College, a member of the federal Higher Colleges of Technology, this is the only post-secondary education institution in Madinat Zayed.

The Government has earmarked more than Dh98 billion (US$26.7bn) as part of a project to develop the Al Gharbia region over the next five years. As well as improving educational opportunities, it is targeting areas such as health and education and creating jobs to stop talented workers from moving to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi. Earlier this week a sister centre opened in Al Ain with 400 students and, like the Madinat Zayed institute, it is run for the Veti board by a German company, GTZ.

Students will take three-year diploma courses in such subjects as medical services, mechanical maintenance, fashion and design and IT. Carmen Muntel, head of the department of design and personal services at the Madinat Zayed institute, said demand for places heavily outstripped supply. More than 1,000 people applied at Al Ain and more than 500 at Madinat Zayed, many of them full-time workers who will attend school in the evening.

Such mature students are keen to restart their education but are ineligible to join one of the Higher Colleges of Technology because their school certificates are too old, Miss Muntel said. "They say they need to study because employers want people with a diploma at least. Most of them started work [several years ago] directly after finishing school." The first year of the diploma is a basic programme covering skills useful in employment and subjects such as mathematics, English and science.

In the second and third years, students specialise in one of 16 courses. Both institutes are set for rapid expansion, with Madinat Zayed taking 200 more students each year until it reaches its capacity of 600. Al Ain will grow at twice this rate until it has 1,200 students. Miss Muntel said the students were so enthusiastic that many would travel from as far away as Liwa and Al Mirfa each day to attend the institute.

"When we talked to the students during interviews, they welcomed the fact that another college was opening. They didn't have opportunities before," she said. "It's so nice because some of them tell us they want to be with us from the beginning. They are really motivated." Miss Muntel said some applicants wanted to develop skills in useful subjects so they could "do something for their country". "I ask them why they want to study if they're 30. They say: 'I want to develop myself, I don't want to stop'," she said.

Madinat Zayed will have equal numbers of male and female students, while the Al Ain college's student body is 60 per cent women. The institutes are based in a mix of new buildings and refurbished facilities. Once they complete their diplomas, Miss Muntel said, students would be encouraged to continue their education at university. The opening of the two centres has come a year after the launch of the Abu Dhabi Vocational and Training Institute (Adveti), which is run by Technical and Further Education, part of the New South Wales Department of Education and Training in Australia. That school also offers diploma courses and has more than 1,000 students.

dbardsley@thenational.ae