x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Stay in school, reformed high school dropout advises

An 18-year-old who dropped out after Grade 9 will start high school again in the autumn, hoping to finish by the time he is 21.

Abdullah quit school before starting grade 10 but now regrets his decision and plans to return to an adult education program to receive his high school diploma. Delores Johnson / The National
Abdullah quit school before starting grade 10 but now regrets his decision and plans to return to an adult education program to receive his high school diploma. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // If he could go back in time 18-year-old Abdullah would not have given up on his studies.

But looking back at the challenging events in his life, it is easy to understand why he did it.

When he was in Grade 6, Abdullah was held back and forced to repeat the grade.

He said he found little support from his school community. “The teachers, they were not good to me, that’s why,” he said.

The trauma of seeing his friends continue to the next level while he was left behind was psychologically scarring, he said. He had a hard time accepting it. He wanted to drop out even then.

“I tried to stop but my mom and dad wouldn’t let me,” he said. They continued to drive him to school every day, not knowing that on many of those days he would wait for their car to roll out of sight before skipping school to join his friends at coffee shops.

As the years progressed, Abdullah continued to harbour ill will towards academic life. He began missing more and more classes.

When his parents divorced, things became worse.

“That made a big change – this is something that made me drop out of school,” he said.

By the time he was in high school, his chronic absenteeism was no longer tolerated and he was expelled. His parents convinced the school to take him back, but he quit for good at the end of Grade 9.

Abdullah now regrets it all. “I would have been graduating this year,” he said. “I have my cousin who is younger than me and he’s going to graduate this year.”

He advises other students who are going through tough times and thinking of dropping out to reconsider. “Do not stop school because you are going to regret it later, you are going to regret it so much,” he said. “If you don’t study in this life, you’re not going to do anything in your life. You’re going to see other people, they are having a good life, and you have nothing.”

Now a mature young man, Abdullah refuses to give up. He says he will return to school in the autumn to complete his education.

“I’m going to be there and I’m going to finish my high school,” he said. He also aspires to travel to America to pursue further studies.

Abdullah credits his mother for always offering him love and guidance. “I have my mom’s support, she always advised me to go and to do something. She always told me, ‘This is your life, I’m not going to always be here for you’,” he said.

“I’m the man of the house. My dad is not here, so I am going to be here for my family.

rpennington@thenational.ae