x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

School mourns 'great' teacher

Students of a Dubai teacher killed in a car crash tell how he inspired them with his dedication to the job.

Nasser Abu Rab, a popular teacher at Al Mawakeb school in Dubai, was killed in a car crash. His students have set up a Facebook site in his memory, from where this photograph was sourced.
Nasser Abu Rab, a popular teacher at Al Mawakeb school in Dubai, was killed in a car crash. His students have set up a Facebook site in his memory, from where this photograph was sourced.

DUBAI // Nasser Abu Rub's infant daughter will never know her ­father. The popular Dubai teacher died in a car accident as he drove to school this week. But his students at Al Mawakeb School in Al Barsha are determined to give his 20-month-old daughter, Leen, an insight into the teacher they describe as a great man. They plan to write the toddler a letter that she will be able to read when she grows up. "We want to let her know how much he loved her and talked about her. We want her to know what a great man her father was," said Raya al Ashi, 17, one of his students.

Mr Abu Rub's family, students and colleagues have been left devastated by his death and the letter is just one of many gestures being made in his memory. Raya described the moment the news was broken to students. "We were told that morning that Mr Nasser was sick and wouldn't be able to make it in. It was very hard for us to believe because he never misses a class and is never late," she said. "We saw that some teachers were crying and we were baffled as to why and suspected that maybe someone got fired. It never crossed our minds that someone had passed."

Raya said the senior students from grades 10, 11 and 12 were then gathered in the school hall where the principal broke the news. "She is a strong woman but we knew something terrible must have happened because her voice started to tremble as she announced that we had lost a member of our family." Raya said there were screams of denial inside the hall. "No one could believe it. I couldn't take it in and was in shock. Many thought they misheard what was said. Others were in denial shouting, 'No, it's not true'. "It hit me 10 minutes later when I saw the reaction of everyone crying around me. I cried my eyes out. God could never take someone so good so soon. He was only 29 and had a 20-month-old daughter which he always talked to us about and showed us pictures of." Mr Abu Rub was also a talented volleyball player who regularly challenged his students on the school court. "We are seeking to get the permission to write his name and notes about him on the school's volleyball court wall so that he will be remembered forever," Raya said. The teacher inspired students, and colleagues respected his dedication and appreciated his warm character. Raya said: "He was popular with everybody. He reached out to every student in his own way. He would not leave the class until he made sure everyone understood the lesson. He even gave some students who were weak in Arabic private lessons without charge." The body of Mr Abu Rub was flown back for burial to his home in Jenin, in the Palestinian territories. The teacher moved to Dubai with his family in 2007 when he joined the school that summer. Police said his vehicle was involved in a collision with a bus that was transporting workers, and it is still not known which vehicle ran a red light. "The accident is still being investigated. The bus driver claims that the light was green when he crossed but that hasn't been determined yet," a traffic police spokesman said. The impact of the accident was so severe that the car rooftop was ripped off and Mr Abu Rub died on the spot, police said. Mr Abu Rub was a devout Muslim, and efforts are under way to raise funds towards realising one of his dreams, said Raya. "We are raising money towards building a mosque in his name in Indonesia because that was one of his wishes. It's the least we can give," she said. Messages of support are being posted online. One entry reads: "People called him our best teacher, others called him our father, brother and friend." It continues: "I found Arabic classes boring my entire life until he started teaching us. His passion and spirit for teaching were an insight. This made his class an inspiration for each and every one of us." Written on one posted picture of the teacher posing with his students are the words: "The respectful man who left us but brought us all together." One student, Hind Al Faris, wrote: "RIP Mr Nasser. I miss you." Another, Lynn Merhi, wrote: "I still feel like he is gonna walk into our class any moment. I cannot believe he is gone!" rabubaker@thenational.ae