x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

National pride starts with a tune in school

National Day 2012: Schools across the UAE hold special assemblies as part of National Day celebrations, where patriotism begins with an oath to the country and singing of the national anthem.

National Day traditions are one particular school memory shared by all Emiratis.
National Day traditions are one particular school memory shared by all Emiratis.

ABU DHABI  // "Once upon a time, not so long ago," recites the young pupil, "lived a leader who had a future vision and many ambitions.

"He was aware of the need for unity among all the emirates, to give them the chance for advancement and growth in all fields.

"For four years the idea simmered, until the day came and the decision was made - to abide by the dictate of Allah in the Surat Al Imran of the Holy Quran.

"And hold fast, all of you, to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves".

After the recital, hundreds of students line up in their schoolyard facing their flag with their hands raised proudly in the air.

After a few seconds, the sound of gun shots pierce the silence and in walks a group of young cadets dressed in their army uniforms.

Once everyone is gathered, they recite an oath to the country and its president.

This special assembly is part of the National Day celebrations at the Al Marwa Government School in Abu Dhabi.

More than 500 pupils, teachers and parents gathered to talk about their country's history and put on a special performance of the UAE National Anthem.

These occasions are one particular school memory shared by all Emiratis. Every morning pupils and staff are called together to hear parts of the Quran and read different sayings of Prophet Mohammed.

The school principle, Mozah Matter Al Nuaimi, remembers her own time as a schoolgirl in Ras Al Khaimah.

"We used to walk before the [formation of the] union. There was not even any busses," she recalls.

Mrs Al Nuami has worked in the education field since 1988, and is passionate about teaching the young students about their heritage, As the 8am bell rings, she leads the way to the schoolyard, where all the pupils are waiting.

The younger ones, in Grades 1 to 5, are dressed in their pink smock dresses, while the older children wear grey.

Other pupils are dressed up as a doctor, engineer, teacher, housewife, and a mother. They perform a play to tell the story of what happened on December 2, 1971, when the UAE was officially formed.

"Honouring the flag is done in many ways, not only by being a soldier," says history teacher Lubna Al Tenaiji, who has been teaching for 15 years.

"By fulfilling many job, each in their concentration, is when the country builds up. And importantly, being a mother to the next generation is one of the greatest roles of a girl.

"Here in the beginning of the day when you start as one with the whole school and you feel you are a part of something bigger is when the sense of patriotic starts.

"It creates a natural feeling of cooperation and self-responsibility and it shows in the very simple actions of the girls."

Mrs Al Tenaji, who lives in Abu Dhabi, says having a daily routine also instils a sense of discipline and unity in the pupils as they are "united in the same words and feelings".

Her own school morning assembly, she recalls, was often the highlight of her day.

"I used to come even earlier than the principle, when we looked at the flag and sang along, I felt belonging and felt every word I was saying."

Also attending the special event are parents of the pupils, mostly mothers, many of whom are actively involved in their daughter's education.

"In our school" the principle Mrs Al Nuami says, "mothers play a great productive role. They are very involved in everything. Here they are attending this assembly with us today, they insisted in coming."

She recalls an incident at the beginning of the school year when the traffic outside the school was reaching dangerous levels. One of the mothers took it upon herself to contact the police to fix the problem.

"When one of the mothers knew, she called up the a police car from Al Murroor and stood with them under the sun for a week directing cars until it was all settled and the movement smooth!"

"When you see mothers like that, you know the new generations will still have it."

The mother in question, Al Anoud, whose daughter Shamma is in Grade 4, was attending this week's special assembly.

"Especially for girls, every mother has to be involved in her daughter's life," she says. "Step by step until she can stand still in the right path."

For the children to see their mothers take such pride in the day's events, she says, reinforces to the children how important their heritage is.

Debra Hyland, a Canadian cluster manager from the Abu Dhabi Education Council was also among the spectators. It marks her first National Day celebration after arriving in the country late December last year.

"It has been a privilege to come to an understanding of culture and a good example of how proud I feel of the nationals seeing them treating these days," she says. "I see a lot of mother's awareness and presence in the schools and how they have close and strong relations with their daughters, that I haven't seen anywhere else."

At the end of the morning, everyone left humming the tune of the anthem and picturing the land of this area, the desserts, the palms and the seas, and remembering their days as children themselves, reciting the anthem on their own schoolyard.