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Khalifa Awards are a lesson to all that children want to learn

A Dubai centre where disabled youngsters can learn how to make robots and a teacher who is getting his pupils excited about learning Arabic were among the winners in this year’s Khalifa Award for Education.

The award, now in its ninth year, singled out educators across the Arab world who go beyond the call of duty to promote knowledge and innovation.

Among them was Jamal Chahoud, a Grade One teacher in Arabic and Islamic studies at Al Bwadi Primary School in the capital.

Mr Chahoud was awarded for his work in making children feel excited about learning and perfecting their native tongue.

The secret to his success, he said, was simple – he added a little competition to his classes, and a prize.

At the end of each week, Mr Chahoud holds an Arabic reading contest, and the best performing pupil takes home the now much-coveted Arabic Language Knight Cup.

“This has encouraged the children to love Arabic and to make the parents get excited too when they take the cup home,” said the teacher, who holds a BA in Arabic language from the University of Aleppo, a doctorate in human resources and is a winner of the Sharjah Voluntary Work Award.

Developing a programme that enabled children with special needs to make robots helped make the Dubai Handicap Rehabilitation Centre an award winner.

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“This is the first initiative of its kind worldwide, and we are planning to register it as our own invention,” said Ayesha Al Darbi, the centre’s manager.

“We have many initiatives coming up in 2017, like a garden designed 100 per cent for special-needs students,” said Ms Al Darbi. “It will be established by Dubai Municipality. We are also building a sensory gym.”

The education personality of the year award was presented to Saeed bin Lootah for establishing many projects and businesses in the region since 1956.

These included the first construction company in Dubai, Lootah Construction Company, and the first Islamic bank in the world, Dubai Islamic Bank, in 1975.

Mr bin Lootah also established the Dubai Pharmacy College for Girls in 1992 and the Dubai Centre for Environmental Research.

Chosen from 600 nominees, the 37 individuals and institutions named winners at this year’s event were presented with their awards by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Culture, at Etihad Towers on Thursday.

“We in the UAE value education and place it at the top of our national priorities, care and support,” Sheikh Mansour said.

“We also provide the resources required to develop its content, improve the learning environment and support educators in light of the leadership’s belief in the core role that education plays in building the human being – the engine of development, bedrock of security, source of national treasures and our prime force towards a more prosperous, happier and pioneering future.”

Also among those honoured was Dr Ahmad Al Jefri, who was recognised for his work to improve the poor reading habits of children.

“It is our fault that children are not fond of reading, because we are not providing something interesting and imaginative for them,” said Dr Al Jefri, a haematologist and transfusion medicine consultant from Saudi Arabia who has written books for youngsters and is working on a project to explain to sick children their condition through storytelling.

Mohammed Khalil, 45, a teacher from Egypt, was praised for his work with special-needs pupils as well as youngsters excluded from schools. His efforts have grown into a programme spread across his home country’s east-coast region.