UAE British schools pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth with flags at half-mast

Head teachers pay respects to the late monarch

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Flags were at half-mast and school assemblies were organised to mark the death of Queen Elizabeth II at British schools in the Emirates on Friday.

Teachers broke the news to younger pupils and class discussions on the life and legacy of the queen were held for older pupils at many schools.

In February 1979, on her first state visit to the UAE, Queen Elizabeth visited the older Corniche campus of the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi, a memory held dear by many pupils who met her.

At the time, it was estimated that 2,000 people turned up to meet the queen at the school, while pupils and teachers gave her a tour of the campus.

I think it's a very sombre day for us. We knew she wouldn't be here for ever, but it's really losing an iconic figure from all of our lives
Mark Leppard, headmaster

Escorted around the campus by Alan Hatter, headmaster at the time, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were presented with an exhibition honouring the International Year of the Child, a United Nations initiative designed to raise awareness of the issues affecting the least advantaged young people.

It was a colourful occasion where pupils were encouraged to wear their national dress and stalls were set up to serve food from all around the globe.

Dimana Alsiksek, a pupil at the school between 1977 and 1979, wrote of her memories in a book published by the school at its golden jubilee.

“It has been many years, but my best recollection of the school was when HM Queen Elizabeth II and her husband HRH Prince Philip came to visit us. We all had to dress up and wave the flag. I also presented her with some flowers,” wrote Ms Alsiksek.

Flags at half-mast at Dubai British School in Jumeirah Park. Photo: Dubai British School

Mark Leppard, the headmaster at the British School Al Khubairat, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to education in 2015.

“All of our flags are at half-mast. We've put up a picture of the queen, a really, really beautiful picture of the queen of both receptions as pupils and parents come in,” said Mr Leppard.

Pupils and teachers at the school will observe a two-minute period of silence on September 16 ahead of the state funeral.

“I think it's a very sombre day for us. We knew she wouldn't be here for ever, but it's really losing an iconic figure from all of our lives,” he said.

“I've grown up only knowing the queen as the head of state. She was an absolute beacon of public service and she dedicated her whole life to being a public servant.

“Even two days ago when she worked, she met the new prime minister. She worked continuously to support the country and I think we should all be very proud of that and honoured to have had her as our head of state.”

Dubai British schools under Taaleem had flags at half-mast and had class discussions on the life of the queen.

“I think everybody feels the immense loss of Her Majesty the queen,” said Rebecca Coulter, principal at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park.

“We've had a special presentation this morning in school for all the pupils and our flags are at half-mast today.

“We look at her life as a one of true inspiration. One that will be remembered for a long time to come.

“I think we're very, very sad, but we acknowledge the impact she had on British culture and we know we're proud to mark that today.”

She said the presentation at the school today was a brief one. A more in-depth version with a detailed look at the life she led and the importance of what she did not just in the UK but across the world will follow next week.

The aim of the presentation was to address any questions that pupils, especially younger ones, might have.

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Updated: September 09, 2022, 11:05 AM