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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

UAE Portrait of a Nation: teacher recalls fond memories of 1970s Abu Dhabi

Saeed Al Tareefi was a translator in Abu Dhabi port in 1969 and witnessed the nation’s founding and its journey of progress

Saeed Al Tareefi, an educational expert, first moved to Abu Dhabi in 1969. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Saeed Al Tareefi, an educational expert, first moved to Abu Dhabi in 1969. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The UAE’s relentless progress to a knowlege-driven society is a product of its leadership’s commitment to education.

So says Saeed Al Tareefi, 70, an education expert who started as a translator in Abu Dhabi port in 1969 and witnessed the nation’s founding and its journey of progress.

Saeed Al Tareefi, was born in Palestine in 1948, and went to school there for only three years before his family moved to Zarqaa city in Jordan after the Israeli occupation.

After completing high school, he was one of only four students accepted by the Egyptian embassy to study at Cairo University.

“I studied English language and literature, then obtained a diploma in education. When I graduated, a friend who lived in Abu Dhabi sent me a visa that was issued by the British government,” Mr Al Tareefi said.

Then he landed a job as a translator in Abu Dhabi port. “I remember my boss’s name, Brian Rowe it was. But I didn’t stay long, only nine months before I joined the education field,” he said.

Mr Al Tareefi recalls his days as an English language teacher in Umm Al Quwain’s Al Ameer High School in 1970.

“The pupils were eager to learn, and the co-operation between the school and parents was phenomenal. If a pupil was absent, teachers would visit him at home to make sure he was fine,” he said.

The following year, the union formation was declared and Mr Al Tareefi said it was a privilege to witness such an historic event that made everyone, even expatriates, feel very patriotic.

He met a woman who taught history at the girls’ school and in 1973 they got married.

“The UAE became my home, where I started a career, got married and had my children, this is how the UAE, its leaders and people made me feel.”

In 1975, he became the educational supervisor for the sons of Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Deputy Ruler and later Ruler of Ajman, a position he held for seven years.

“I was in direct contact with three of Umm Al Quwain’s rulers and with Ajman’s ruler.

“They were such magnificent characters, when sitting with them, one felt like being with his brothers and among his family,” he said.

UAE leaders have always given huge support to the education sector, he said, and it was only with their hard work and dedication that the sector developed and grew.

“They closely followed the progress of the education sector, they were and still are in direct contact with schools, students and parents to find out what is necessary for further development,” he said.

Parents then were very eager and committed to sending their children to school and despite often humble beginnings, there were some outstanding results. “I am almost certain that most of the pupils we taught in the early 1970s are now leading the development process in the country,” Mr Al Tareefi said.

“The school had a principal, teachers and pupils, now we have assistants, supervisors, special workers and the most advanced technology.

“In our days, we had very little to work with, but with the dedication of the teachers and the co-operation of the parents and pupils, we achieved success,” he said. The UAE, he said, is walking steadily towards further development in all sectors and that he expects bigger achievements in the education sector in the coming years.

To boost this development, Mr Al Tareefi believes that using Emirati potential in the field of education is vital, and that a dedicated and strong moral education has to be introduced from grades 1 to 5.

In 1984, Mr Al Tareefi became an education inspector with the Ministry of Education, his responsibilities included supervising approaches to education and the enhancement of teachers’ potential through continuous training as well as overseeing the recruitment process.

For 15 years, Mr Al Tareefi remained with the Ministry of Education in its Dubai office before he chose to move to Ajman where in 2010 he started working for Ajman private school after his retirement.

The biog

Born November 11, 1948
Education: BA, English Language and Literature, Cairo University
Family: Four brothers, seven sisters, two daughters, 42 and 39, two sons, 43 and 35, and 15 grandchildren
Hobbies: Reading and traveling