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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

Portrait of a Nation: the dedicated Dubai teacher ensuring no child is priced out of a good education

Shiny Davison joined the teaching profession to change lives and inspire people

Shiny Davison learnt at an early age of the power of a teacher to shape the lives of their pupils.

She fondly recalls the encouraging words of her own English teacher when growing up in India, which are etched in her memory.

The formative years of her own schooling set her off on a life-long journey to help others and ensure nobody is priced out of a good education.

Ms Davison, 48, has spent two decades working in Dubai's lowest fee-paying schools to deliver guidance to pupils who need it most.

She is now the director of learning at Gulf Model School, an Indian school in Dubai with fees ranging from Dh356 per month for kindergarten pupils to Dh647 per month for grade 12 pupils.

“Growing up in the Southern Indian town of Coimbatore, I was inspired my English teacher who taught me pronunciations. Her teachings were engraved in my mind," said Ms Davison.

"As a teacher, you can change lives and inspire people."

An animal lover, Ms Davison’s first pupils when she was 10-years-old were her pets, her hen and her dog.

As a child she would scribble on the whiteboard and try to teach her pets English.

After getting her teaching qualifications, Ms Davison came to Dubai from Kerala after she got married in 1996.

Since 2001, Ms Davison has worked at many affordable schools such as Our Own English High School in Sharjah, and The Apple International School and Amled School in Dubai.

Since 2019, she has been the director of learning at Gulf Model School in Dubai.

“Many parents think they need five-star infrastructure, but the content and quality of education delivered at a school is what matters," said Ms Davison.

"Many schools invest in Information Technology and infrastructure to please wealthy parents.

"But, there is a community of people who cannot afford this. You need to find a way to make learning as beautiful as possible for them."

Ms Davison said tools used in education could be luxurious or cost-effective.

"At Gulf Model School, I felt the challenges of being a teacher," she said.

"The school has been around in Dubai for 13 years but has never won the recognition it deserves. It is one of the most affordable schools in Dubai."

Shiny Davison, director of learning at Gulf Model School in Dubai, has worked for 20 years to improve Dubai’s affordable schools. Antonie Robertson / The National 
Shiny Davison, director of learning at Gulf Model School in Dubai, has worked for 20 years to improve Dubai’s affordable schools. Antonie Robertson / The National 

Ms Davison has strived to show to parents that affordable schools can provide good quality education.

“I have worked to ensure parents and families understand the value of education.

“The profits may be less, the effort more. But these schools can be success stories."

When she joined Gulf Model School, she decided the school needed a cultural change as morale was low after it was rated weak by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's private education regulator.

She encouraged teachers and pupils, and invited parents to the school to feel the environment changing.

"I like taking up challenges and the motive was to improve the school," she said.

Early on in her career, Ms Davison, had a third-grade pupil, Fatima Rizwan, who struggled in academics.

"I would help her, encourage her, and speak with her parents," said Ms Davison.

"Even when she was low, I would motivate her.

"She was a below-average pupil but this child would tell me "Ma’am I will make you proud one day."

Ms Rizwan went on to win a scholarship for higher studies and travelled to the UK to study.

Now, she works as an advocate of child welfare at the United Nations.

"I want to remind the teaching community that every child achieves, even those who are not the best in academics," she said.

"I want to tell society not to penalize children because of grades."

Outside of the classroom, her teaching skills translated to proficiency when training dogs.

Now, her friends in the Emirates bring their dogs to Ms Davison to be trained.

Next, Ms Davison is working on her first book of poems which she intends to publish soon.

Updated: January 7, 2021 12:03 PM

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