x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

FNC and ministry join for student council

Delegates to be chosen from school districts to raise pupils' scant knowledge of, and participation in, the Emirates' political process

DUBAI // Forty young Emiratis willsoon sit in on the weekly meetings of the FNC to take notes and formulate their own solutions.

The FNC yesterday joined the Ministry of Education in a programme to increase understanding of the consultative body and encourage more participation in the next election.

"The first initiative is a student parliament, a programme where pupils will be chosen from different schools to familiarise them with the work of the council," said Mohammed Al Murr, the FNC Speaker.

Mr Al Murr yesterday signed the agreement with Humaid Obaid Al Qattami, the Minister of Education.

He said the body would be modelled on the FNC and pupils would assume similar responsibilities and be given regular training by council members.

Candidates for the student council will be selected from every education district by the ministry.

"The pupils will elect their president and other positions, and debate issues on a regular basis," Mr Al Murr said. "They will also be invited to attend the council meetings."

He said the initiative was an important tool for raising civic understanding among schoolchildren.

"It is important that they get educated early about the constitutional framework, the work of the government and their duties as citizens of this country," Mr Al Murr said.

The programme is part of a wider plan to develop a more extensive social-studies course for secondary-school pupils.

"This move by the FNC reflects the importance it places on the education sector, as well as the nation's aspiration to raise an aware generation," said Mr Al Qattami.

The FNC member Dr Mona Al Bahar said there had been frequent complaints that the young did not know for what the council stood.

"And the young generation is not participating in the political society," Dr Al Bahar said.

Only 28 per cent of eligible voters turned out for last year's FNC elections.

"We want to instil this culture now so that they will be ready and will come and support the FNC by the next elections," Dr Al Bahar said.

Ghada Al Mulla, a history teacher at the Asma Bint Al Numan High School in Dubai, said that for years she had been asking the authorities to include UAE politics for secondary school pupils.

"It's their country and yet they are so ignorant about how the country runs," Ms Al Mulla said.

"I think in each high-school level there must be chapters providing full details about important decisions taken by the ministers and other policymakers."

Ms Al Mulla said a student council would make the work of the FNC more accessible to pupils.

"They may hear about it on the radio and TV but it's still a distant concept," she said. "If the members visit schools and talk to pupils, it will raise their interest as well."

Ahlam Al Hammadi, 22, is studying international relations at Zayed University and said she had no clue what the FNC was about when she was at school.

"I was never taught about the FNC and it is only now that we hear so much about it," said Ms Al Hammadi, who went to a government school in Abu Dhabi.

She said such opportunities would have helped with her course.

"This should not only be for schools," Ms Al Hammadi said. "I would also like the university to add chapters that focus on the different councils, their history, how they have progressed.

"This way, I'll be able to follow the discussions that take place in the FNC meetings."

Mr Al Murr said another aim was to help the pupils involved to become confident and informed communicators.

"We want to bring out the leadership qualities of pupils and get them involved in social work," he said.