Bright pupils from low-income families in Ras Al Khaimah will be granted nursing scholarships as part of a initiative aimed at opening up opportunities for people from poorer backgrounds and driving up numbers in the profession.
The Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Charitable Education Foundation will fund 20 scholarships to top high school graduates in the next academic year.
Successful applicants - who must achieve scores of at least 93 per cent in their exams - will receive training at RAK Medical and Health Sciences University.
The scheme is being introduced in an effort to encourage the country's young talent to take up nursing.
“We are in need of nursing staff in this country and in order to cover the labour market needs we decided to grant 20 nursing scholarships to low-income high school top achievers in the emirate,” said Sumaia Al Suwaidi, chair of the foundation.
“Emiratis are already granted nursing scholarships for the government so we decided to provide the grants to students from Comoros and other nationalities that can’t afford to go to college and study nursing.”
It is the latest effort by the foundation to ensure career paths are not blocked by financial limitations.
In 2017, the foundation launched granted another 20 underprivileged learners scholarships in different majors at American University of Ras Al Khaimah.
“We have charitable campaigns around the year that mainly supports underprivileged pupils in the emirate and around 1,900 pupils are currently studying at our four schools,” said Ms Al Suwaidi.
Dr Vijaya Kumardhas, dean of nursing at RAK Medical and Health Sciences University, said the UAE and the rest of the globe must address a nursing shortage.
“Our main goal is to increase the number of residents and citizens holding a nursing degree and with similar initiative and scholarships we can say that we are on the right track.
“We have students from a number of countries studying nursing at the university. Most of them are from Arabic nationalities.
“We also offer a 50 per cent discount to encourage more people to go for a nursing degree and we offer a master degree in nursing too,” she said.
Dr Kumardhas said there has been a rise in the number of Emiratis enrolling in the nursing courses offered at the university.
“Every class, nearly 50 per cent of the students are Emiratis,” she said.
“The numbers have increased due to the ministry of higher education scholarships that was launched in 2013.
“We need nurses to cover the high demands. Nurse to patient ratios are very low here in the country as the number of patients and hospitals are increasing and so should the numbers of nurses.”
One students who benefited from the previous scholarship initiative provided at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah said he could not have graduated without the help of the foundation.
“The foundation started helping me from the second grade as they allowed me to study at one of their charity schools,” said Maswood Abdulshakur.
The 22-year-old, a stateless bidoon, graduated from the university this year with a bachelor in electronics and communications engineering.
“It was difficult for my father to cover my tuition expenses but the foundation supported me from the beginning and I’m so grateful for them and that encouraged me to study hard and achieve high scores.
“The support also helped me to achieve my dreams and build my future in a way that will allow me to give back to the country and be part of its great achievements and continues development,” he said.
During the UAE's first International Nursing Excellence Conference held in April, Emirati nurses said their job needs higher status to attract more UAE nationals.