Prince Philip: Dubai pupils and teachers share fond memories of Duke of Edinburgh's Award

Launched in 1956, the award offers young people aged 14 to 24 the chance to challenge themselves through community work and outdoor expeditions

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The death of Prince Philip left a wave of sadness around the world on Friday. Since then pupils and teachers in Dubai have been reflecting on how the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (DofE) has left a lasting impression on the lives of those who took part.

Founded in 1956, the award offers young people the chance to challenge themselves through various outlets, including community work, fitness and challenging outdoor expeditions.

Open to people aged 14 to 24, hundreds of thousands across the globe have joined the programme, including more than 2,500 pupils in Dubai last year.

Having met The Duke of Edinburgh on more than one occasion, it always struck me how much he cared about the young people completing the award

There are three levels of award: bronze, silver and gold. In the past, many who achieved the highest gold award were invited to attend a special ceremony to meet Prince Philip.

Sarah Donovan, director of sport at Dubai British School, was one of them.

“As a PE teacher, it is no surprise I have been heavily involved in the award for the last 21 years, not to mention I did bronze, silver and gold as a pupil,” she said.

“A personal highlight has to be going to Buckingham Palace with pupils for their Gold Award Ceremony.

“Having met His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh on more than one occasion, it always struck me how much he cared about the young people completing the award.

“He would make time to chat to them individually and hear about their experiences. Whilst he may have awarded hundreds of students in each ceremony, he made every group feel unique and important."

As an assessor and supervisor for the award in the Middle East for eight years, Ms Donovan has supervised expeditions in the UAE, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

She said the “grit and resilience the expedition element affords the pupils” is unrivalled by any other school activity.

Haya Salam, a grade 10 pupil at Uptown International School, holds a bronze and silver DofE Award.

She said an extremely rewarding part of her journey was when she completed the service section of her silver award.

“Volunteering as a Global Goals Leader gave me the opportunity to gain the experience of a work environment, test out possible career pathways, develop new skills, or develop existing ones,” she said.

“It was a great feeling knowing that I was making a huge difference and giving something back to my community each week."

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 04: Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh smiles during a visit to the headquarters of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force's (RAuxAF) 603 Squadron on July 4, 2015 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Danny Lawson - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Philip died at Windsor Castle three weeks after he was discharged from hospital. Getty

There are four main sections of the programme: volunteering, physical, skills and expedition. At gold level, participants also complete a residential section.

Here, participants must undertake a shared activity or course with people they do not know, in a residential setting, away from home and in an unfamiliar environment.

At this level, pupils often live temporarily on boats, barges or camps.

Laura Treliving, head of PE at Uptown International School, is a Duke of Edinburgh's Award international co-ordinator.

Having been involved in the award, both in the UK and internationally, she said she has seen it “change students’ lives”.

“New talents have been discovered, passions become ignited, life-long skills developed and a true love of learning and growing has been created during the process of completing the award,” she said.

“When I moved over to teach in Dubai I had to continue the award here to give our students at UIS these same opportunities.

“I worked hard to get the school accredited and launch the award here, which has been one of my greatest achievements.

“His Royal Highness Prince Philip has been an inspiration by setting up this award and has had such a positive impact on millions of people's lives. His legacy will live on."

Francesca Di Meo-Smith, a teacher at Dubai British School, has been heavily involved in getting pupils enrolled in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

“Within our school, pupils have explored a variation of tasks from snowboarding to knitting, and even climbed the height of Mount Everest on their stairs at home,” she said.

“The school has relished seeing pupils become more confident within themselves.

“With the help of Zoom, pupils have helped tutor younger students, do yoga classes at home and arrange dog walks for vulnerable members of society.”

Prince Philip in the Middle East: in pictures