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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Rugby too 'rough' and girls should instead study cooking, says UAE council member

Debate sparked at Federal National Council over girls picking sports rather than kitchen skills

A Federal National Council member has said girls should focus on cooking skills rather than 'dangerous' pursuits such as rugby. Victor Besa for The National
A Federal National Council member has said girls should focus on cooking skills rather than 'dangerous' pursuits such as rugby. Victor Besa for The National

Rugby is too “rough” for girls who should instead take cooking classes to become the “perfect housewife”, a Federal National Council member has said.

Speaking at an FNC meeting on Tuesday, Salem Al Shehhi, who represents Ras Al Khaimah, said cooking lessons were disappearing from UAE schools, while learners were instead playing a “dangerous” sport.

“Imagine a girl graduates from school playing rugby but doesn’t know how to cook,” said Mr Al Shehhi during a debate at the UAE's parliament.

“This is not my voice calling for this, it is the voice of the people, and it is my responsibility to communicate to you the people’s voice.

“This sport is considered one of the most dangerous sports and today girls are playing it in high school, whereas one of the most important skills to be taught in school has disappeared: cooking classes.”

He said cooking classes are being taught in institutions around the world and it is important for pupils to

“learn to cook throughout their education".

“Once they graduate they can be perfect housewives, and well connected with their families.”

Rugby is part of the physical education curriculum – for boys and girls – as the UAE looks to develop local talent in the sport.

The UAE Rugby Federation has made an agreement with the UAE Ministry of Education in the second phase of the sport’s expansion in the Emirati community.

In early January, the Ministry of Education published a rugby workbook and trained more than 400 teachers in a one-day training programme.

Salem Al Shehhi, Federal National Council representative for Ras Al Khaimah, says girls should take cooking classes to become the 'perfect housewife". Pawan Singh / The National 
Salem Al Shehhi, Federal National Council representative for Ras Al Khaimah, says girls should take cooking classes to become the 'perfect housewife". Pawan Singh / The National 

The minister of state for public education, Jameela Al Muhairi, said a variety of sports have been introduced in UAE schools and added that the country is excelling in rugby.

She said that cooking was also part of the education menu in the country's schools.

“Of course we are preparing to introduce cooking clubs in schools, so girls can learn how to prepare healthy meals,” said Ms Al Muhairi.

“I assure the member that it is important for us to have a variety of activity clubs for boys and girls, and we are working on that.

“Rugby is not alien to us, it has been practiced in the UAE for years and we have the UAE Rugby Federation and the UAE team has won several medals in the sport across Asia.”

She added that 60 per cent of countries worldwide teach rugby in schools.

“We are always considering sports from different parts of the world and how to include them in the education system. We recently brought sports from Japan and China.”

Furthermore, rugby as a sport builds team work, she said.

“Research has shown that this sport is very beneficial to teenagers as it teaches self-control and discipline.”

The debate was sparked as FNC members discussed a fall in obesity levels, with sport and healthy eating playing a part in the reduction.

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Read more:

Rugby added to UAE's national school curriculum

Emirati girls 'knew rugby was a sport for boys' but are proving it is for them, too

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FNC speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi said that playing rugby has “benefits to the human body”.

“We are not necessarily talking about playing it professionally, but of its benefits to the human body,” Dr Al Qubaisi said.

“There is a sports philosophy for schools, because the health and fitness aspect is not less important than the intellectual side.

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi , Speaker of the Federal National Council, said playing rugby has health benefits. Pawan Singh / The National
Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi , Speaker of the Federal National Council, said playing rugby has health benefits. Pawan Singh / The National

“There should be equal opportunities for boys and girls,” said Dr Al Qubaisi, who was the first Arab woman to chair a parliamentary body in 2015.

FNC member Saeed Al Remeithi, who represents Abu Dhabi at the council, asked what the ministry is doing to reduce obesity among school children.

Ms Al Muhairi said obesity rates have dropped across the UAE.

In 2017, the rate fell to 13.6 per cent, from 14.4 per cent the year before.

“Every year the rate is dropping, with differing rates from emirate to emirate, but in general across the UAE, school obesity rates have dropped to 13.6 per cent.”

She said the ministry has also been watching what children eat, and surveying them extensively on their eating and exercising habits inside and outside the school.

“But we need parents to co-operate with us on this, because if a healthy diet is not encouraged at home as well there is nothing we can do about it once the child leaves the school.”

Mr Al Remeithi suggested that school canteens should be turned into proper kitchens and provide full meals “so the pupils don't have to line up until the end of the break and end up with a sandwich.”

Ms Al Muhairi said this policy had already been applied for kindergarten school children, and will be rolled out across upper grades soon.

Mr Al Remeithi also stressed that attention should be given to the well-being of overweight pupils, as they could be suffering from emotional trauma and psychological issues.

Minister Al Muhairi said they recently held an anti-bullying week in schools, to spread awareness among school children that they should not pick on one another.