Emirati women eager to take up fresh chance to study

Classes at Ras Al Khaimah's Hind bint Otaiba Centre for Adult Education are packed with women who are eager to learn, despite scarce resources.

Maha Mohammad, a teacher at the Hind Bint Otaiba For Adult Education Center in RAK, conducts her evening class for women who want to obtain a secondary school certificate.
Powered by automated translation

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Mona had been counting to 20 every day so she could show off to her new friends in class.

So when her bus to the Hind bint Otaiba Centre for Adult Education arrived late on Tuesday, Mona, 40, worried she would miss the first half of her lesson when her teacher would test the class on numbers learnt the previous week.

Without bothering to adjust the abaya that trailed behind her, she rushed to class with her whiteboard and marker in hand and took a seat in the second row.

The pale-blue walls of her classroom are chipped and peeling, and desks are crammed in to accommodate the 40 women who are being educated here for the first time.

Most of them missed out on school because of family restrictions or marriage, but some young girls are also sent here if they fail a grade twice.

"I did not get a chance to study when young," said Mona, an Emirati. "I was the oldest of four siblings, so my mother said I should stay at home and help her look after them."

Today Mona has three children who have gone to university and work. It is the perfect time to gain the taaleem (education) she was deprived of. "My husband is very supportive and that motivates me to study," she said.

Maha Mohammed, Mona's literacy teacher, began their revision by asking them to write the number 19 on their boards. There was a frenzy: everyone from a 13-year-old to the oldest student, who is 60, wanted to be first to get it right.

The women nudge each other and peek at neighbours' whiteboards before scribbling down a number and frantically waving it to get the instructor's attention.

"No, this is wrong Fouzia," said Ms Mohammed before walking to the next student, struggling to see the boards in the dimly lit classroom.

The Hind bint Otaiba Centre educates 250 students at different levels, all preparing for a secondary school certificate.

The literacy classes are taken up by students who have never been to school and are learning to read and write in Arabic. More intensive subjects are introduced as they progress.

"The students are always very excited to learn," said the teacher. "They are attentive and consider even the smallest thing learnt an achievement."

Ms Mohammed said that sometimes enthusiasm could be overshadowed by the shoddily maintained campus.

"I've been here for 20 years and have seen no development in adult education," she said. "The building is not maintained, never painted, and we do not have computers or modern materials to teach with."

Fatima Abdul Rahman, the school's principal, said the number of women joining had increased. "No one pushes them, they want to be here," said Ms Abdul Rahman. "But there are problems that need addressed so their motivation remains."