An inspiring UAE teacher who spent Dh300,000 of his own money to provide top-quality facilities for pupils has won a Dh1 million award for his dedication to his profession.
Dr Rashed Ali Hashem dug deep into his own pocket to help set up 12 high-tech teaching laboratories and a museum for pupils at Al Moatasem Public School for boys in Baniyas, Abu Dhabi.
The labs focus on academic achievement and encourage healthy bodies and minds as physical activity is involved.
Dr Hashem has been honoured for his efforts after being crowned a winner in the Mohamed bin Zayed award for the best teacher in the GCC.
The prestigious awards attracted more than 1,000 entries, most of whom came from UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Dr Hashem was eager to show that sport can help the well-being of pupils, and is far more than just an extracurricular activity.
At one of his labs, which pupils visit for at least 15 minutes each day, they pedal on a bike to create electricity.
At another lab for students who suffer from hyperactivity, Dr Hashem uploaded the entire curriculum on computer devices stationed in front of treadmills so they can walk and learn.
At another called the “smart carpet lab”, the curriculum is uploaded on a projector device that hangs from the ceiling.
Dr Hashem has bought all of the equipment from abroad.
His work has been rewarded with results, as pupils are performing better since the labs were introduced.
The museum tells the stories of schoolchildren with special needs.
“I think it is important for students to understand the difficulties that they face, as well as their achievements,” the father of four said.
Dr Hashem has pledged to give half of his money to charity, with the rest to be invested in a project he is thinking of launching.
The teaching prize was also awarded to Fawziah Allmujamsi, who teaches at a girls' school in Saudi Arabia, after she found the formula to help children fall in love with mathematics.
“If you love it, it will love you and you will discover that your whole life revolves around maths,” Ms Allmujamsi said.
“Your footsteps are mathematics. Your food is mathematics and everything. Mathematics is a way of life. Without mathematics you cannot study physics, biology, chemistry or any subject.”
She has made many contributions in her field, most notably in translating maths books into Arabic and running several programmes explaining the subject to pupils.
“I never considered my job to end in the classroom," Ms Allmujamsi said. "I have always tried to teach and mentor students outside the classroom and have encouraged them to look for answers rather than just giving it to them.
“Yes, maths is a dense subject but once you understand the basics, then it is all simple.”
Her Twitter account is flooded with positive messages from former pupils.
“My proudest moments are when I read messages from my students telling me they have become doctors or mathematics professors because I inspired them," Ms Allmujamsi said.
“Nothing makes me happier.”
Dr Hamad Al Darmaki, General Secretariat of the MBZ Award for the best GCC teachers, said the winners were chosen for meeting criteria such as outstanding performance, creativity and leadership.
“I think the importance of such an award is to encourage teachers to make further contributions that not only align themselves with the UAE’s vision, but with the needs of the world," Dr Al Darmaki said. "Such competitions will encourage research, innovations and excellence.
“We want to show teachers that we appreciate them. The government and the leadership is indebted to them. They are the cornerstone for the development of any nation.”