x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Winter school hours should change to cut accidents: FNC member

Sheikha Eissa, the only elected woman, wants school hours to start later in winter and teacher salaries to increase to encourage Emiratis to become teachers.

ABU DHABI // A woman will take centre stage at the FNC today for the first time in this session.

Sheikha Eissa (Umm Al Quwain), the council's only elected female member, will ask the Minister of Education, Humaid Mohammed Obaid Al Qattami, if school hours in winter can be changed to cut the number of road accidents.

Children leave home as early as 6am to reach school for a 7am start, meaning that in winter most of the journey takes place in darkness.

"I will ask about the possibility of applying a summer and winter structure on schools," Ms Eissa said. "Children leave home early in winter. The ministry needs to take this into account."

School traffic, whether private drivers or school buses, when added to commercial traffic, made road accidents more likely, Ms Eissa said. She proposes that schools open an hour or two later in winter to ensure that pupils get there safely.

The minister will also be asked about steps taken to encourage Emiratis, particularly men, to become teachers. Musabah Al Kitbi (Sharjah) said that if the current shortage continued it could lead to a crisis.

"There is a big shortage of local male teachers," he said. "My recommendation would be to offer pupils from secondary school a fixed salary of Dh5,000 per month if they wish to enter the education field, and help them on their path."

Mr Al Kitbi said only 7 per cent of 9,000 available teachers were men, a figure he described as alarming. Two years ago, he said, not a single male student was enrolled at United Arab Emirates University's education college.

"We need to help them to finish university, give them incentives," he said. "Currently, going to the military, with a better salary than a school head teacher, is an easier option."

Teachers' salaries should be increased across the board to encourage local participation, he said. "The number of teachers who resigned at the beginning of this year alone is alarming."

The Minister of Public Works, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak, and the Minister of Health, Abdulrahman Al Owais, are also expected to answer questions at the session.

Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman) will ask Sheikh Hamdan, who is also head of the Zayed Housing Programme, to increase the budget for Emirati housing finance and to set timetables for Emiratis to receive the loans, to assist them in "life planning".

Mr Al Owais will be asked about the new Massafi hospital.

The session will be open to the public from 9am at FNC headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

osalem@thenational.ae