Dubai schools awarded for fostering culture of health and happiness

From growing organic gardens to allowing children to mediate and resolve playground conflicts, schools came up with various ingenious ways to support pupils’ wellbeing.

Starting them young. Pupils at Swiss Scientific International School in Dubai learn about planting at the school’s organic garden. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

Schools receive awards for planting seeds of well-being in their pupils from the nursery through to secondary. Yoga, nutrition and conflict resolution all make up a class act.

DUBAI // Schools at the forefront of developing a culture of health and happiness among pupils were this week rewarded for their efforts.

From growing organic gardens to allowing children to mediate and resolve playground conflicts, schools came up with various ingenious ways to support pupils’ well-being.

Judges for the Healthy and Happy School (H2) Awards had to sift through 28 video entries to find the winners in four categories.

Sabah Rashid, head of primary at the Swiss International Scientific School, said on Sunday that she was delighted the school had won a Health and Happiness Award.

“It’s wonderful to know the work we do has been recognised,” she said.

“We only opened last September but, right from the start, the health and well-being of pupils and staff has been at the core of what we do.”

They have the largest managed organic school garden in Dubai, where pupils plant, maintain, pick, prepare and eat their own vegetables.

“We focus on providing children with healthy, balanced meals and make sure they are responsible for cleaning up afterwards,” she said.

The school introduced soft seating in all classrooms, a sensory room and three play breaks during the day.

Pupils also enjoy yoga as part of after-school activities, have health checks.

The sunshine committee – made up of teachers – looks at ways to reward and plan well-being-related activities.

In the pipeline are new meditation gong (a type of sound therapy) classes.

Gems Wellington Academy in Dubai Silicon Oasis was given the award for most innovative school in implementing health and well-being programmes.

“We are very much a student-led school and to have won this award shows the progress we have made and the hard work we put in,” said Alana Gaffney, Emerald Primary head of house at the school.

“Not only do we offer more healthy food but we also offer breakfast, which has proved popular among pupils.

The school appoints some pupils as healthy eating champions and holds a healthy lifestyle week each year so that all pupils can learn more about a sustainable healthy diet.

They cover not just body but also mind.

“We have primary and secondary age children we train for six weeks so they are able to resolve playground conflicts,” she said.

“All of these things together help to build a school environment that is healthy and happy.”

Dubai English Speaking School was given the Star of the Community for involving ­pupils, teachers and parents in their well-being activities.

The school of research science received a special mention for its video submission.

Hind Al Mualla, chief of creativity, happiness and innovation at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), praised all the schools that sent in nominations.

“There have been so many wonderful ideas that were sent in to us and hopefully other schools will be inspired to start similar projects,” she said.

Highlights of other entries ­included one school organising a hair cut for cancer and another where more than 200 pupils ­cycled to school.

“It’s exciting to see such a big participation from schools and the fact they continue to prioritise healthy living is a clear indicator of positive changes taking place in Dubai’s education ­system,” said Dr Abdulla Al ­Karam, director general of KHDA.

The H2 award was an initiative by the City Makers’ Sky Blue team, which is comprises Dubai Education Zone, Dubai Health Authority, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Sports Council and the KHDA.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Sky Blue team in improving the well-being of children and looking at new initiatives that can help reduce obesity among children,” said Eman Al Suwaidi, director of Dubai Model Centre, which aims to raise the quality of public services in Dubai.