x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Brothers love their 'volunteer mum'

Brothers Salah and Khalid Al Ansari are happy their mum helps out with lessons at their school.

Hifa Al Ansari with her children Khalid, 7, left, and Salah, 9.
Hifa Al Ansari with her children Khalid, 7, left, and Salah, 9.

DUBAI // Salah and Khalid Al Ansari are used to seeing their mother at the front of their classroom.

She is not their teacher, but a few times each month Hifa Al Ansari conducts classes for her boys, seven and nine, and their classmates.

"I am a volunteer mum at my children's school," explains Mrs Al Ansari, an Emirati whose children attend Gems Royal Dubai School.

"I go in for English reading, helping them in mathematics and now I do Arabic-guided reading for some grades, too."

Mrs Al Ansari sees it as an opportunity to impart values. "It shows them I am there and very much tuned into their school life and they will grow up to be caring and respectful individuals," she says.

"It's also about volunteering for the benefit of others and I want them to do that, too."

Parents like Mrs Al Ansari are rare, according to a study by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and the Dubai School of Government (DSG).

A paper released yesterday said very few schools prescribe to the concept of parent volunteers working alongside children.

The report also noted a lack of commitment among parents to their children's school activities.

It said that some highly ranked schools have good parental involvement but most have failed to improve this.

Research shows that pupils with parents who are involved in their school activities tend to have fewer behavioural problems and perform better academically. They are also more likely to complete secondary school, said the KHDA report.

For Mrs Al Ansari, involvement means volunteering at their school, taking the children to Quran classes and having their father take them to karate and swimming lessons.

"Apart from sitting with them for homework, every day they get 15 minutes of my undivided attention and I have to get the same in return. During that time, there are no phone calls, no interruptions, just me and them," she says.

Carmen Benton, a parenting and educational consultant for Lifeworks Counselling Dubai, advocates Mrs Al Ansari's parenting, calling it "an authoritative style".

"This is when the parents becomes more of a consultant, setting boundaries - not controlling them but rather trying to solve issues with them."

Whatever the style is called, it works for seven-year-old Khalid.

"I love it when mum comes to school and reads to us," he says. "My friends enjoy it, too. She makes us read hard books. Now I am so good at reading Arabic."