x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Programme offers unemployed women a chance to teach

The Kayani Teacher Assistant Program accepts Emirati women between the ages of 18 and 35 who have completed their high school education and offers them a chance to work in schools.

Graduates line up after getting their degrees for the Kayani Teacher Assistant Programme from the British University in Dubai at the convocation held in the capital on June 17, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National
Graduates line up after getting their degrees for the Kayani Teacher Assistant Programme from the British University in Dubai at the convocation held in the capital on June 17, 2014. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Fatima Al Sayari, a mother of six, finally fulfilled her education dreams on Tuesday when she graduated from the only programme in the country that trains unemployed, high-school educated Emirati women to work as teaching assistants.

“I am very happy, I want to fly,” said Mrs Al Sayari, 33, who ended her education to take care of her family and children, the oldest of whom is now in college and the youngest is in kindergarten.

Mrs Al Sayari said she was encouraged to apply for the Kayani Teacher Assistant Programme because she always wanted to work as a teacher of special-needs pupils. Her brother and sister have children with special needs, and Mrs Al Sayari said she wanted to be part of the national movement to integrate special-needs children into mainstream classrooms.

“I think it’s better,” she said about including special-needs pupils in mainstream schools. “Because, in my family, when special needs go to the party, all the other kids say, ‘Oh, what’s this? Why like this?’ It’s not good for them. ”

The 12-month programme is funded by the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development and run in partnership with the British University in Dubai. It is the only one of its kind that trains national women between the ages of 18 and 35 to work as teaching assistants in Cycle One schools.

The programme is intended to empower the women by offering them an educational opportunity and professional experience that they may not otherwise have access to. It is also meant to help meet the country’s need for more assistants to special-needs teachers.

“We are focusing on youth, especially those who were unable to continue their education for certain reasons – social or other reasons – and giving them really a second chance to learn, to get an education and to be able to better serve their nation,” said Maytha Al Habsi, chief programmes officer at Emirates Foundation.

“Through this programme, which is in partnership with the British University in Dubai, we equip them with all the skills necessary to perform well inside classes and be able to help students, especially students with special needs, and those who are having difficulty with learning. Their job in these classes is to help these students.”

The teaching-assistant students undergo six months of theoretical education and six months of practical training in schools. The schedule allows for a school-life balance so that the women don’t have to neglect their domestic duties.

“What’s good about this is we go to the students, the students don’t come to the universities, we open different centres in different emirates, in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain,” said Dr Sabha Al Shamsi, the programme’s director for social inclusion. “For the theoretical part, we give them one full week of study a month, eight hours a day. It balances the family and also it gives them time to do the assignments, to do research, those kinds of things.”

More than 4,500 women applied for this year’s class, which began two weeks ago. Demand was so high, the Emirates Foundation doubled the number it would accept to 200.

Of the 23 women who graduated from the programme’s pilot year, which ran from 2012 to last year, 12 are now employed in Government schools throughout the country.

Dr Al Shamsi said she was hopeful jobs would be extended to the 52 graduates who were honoured in a ceremony on Tuesday.

“This is an opportunity, for example, for the Ministry of Education to employ these smart women,” said Dr Al Shamsi.

“What’s good about this course for the teachers’ assistants is these girls, they graduated maybe 10 years ago from high school. Maybe they’re divorced, maybe their parents did not allow them to go to school – they have so many different issues in society. They depend on society, but now after we train them, prepare them, they’re contributing to society. They’re becoming more independent.

“I had a couple of the students come to me and say, ‘doctor, doctor, I was living in the dark, and now you brought us to light’. So it was great.”

rpennington@thenational.ae