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24 Emirati women to help as teaching assistants

Students with Down Syndrome get trained as teaching assistants

Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News
Rihab Hashim Al Hashimi, a Learning Support Assistant (LSA), helps six-year-old Rashid Juma Al Zaabi, a special needs student at Shurooq Kindergarten.
Gulf News

Dubai: A total of 24 Emirati women graduated the Special Needs Teacher Assistant Training programme at the British University in Dubai (BUiD) this month [January]. The programme was rolled out in cooperation with the UAE Down’s Syndrome Association (UAEDSA), the Emirates Foundation and the Ministry of Education (MoE).

The graduates are training in 13 government schools in the UAE and will potentially take up full-time employment. The ministry plans to create a national employment cadre of teaching assistants by October 2013.

Professor Dr Eman Gaad, project director, head of the educational committee of UAEDSA and Dean of Faculty of Education at BUiD, told Gulf News that these graduates will contribute to a much-needed service in public schools. With a large number of students with Down’s Syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects physical and mental development, the teachers at mainstream government schools need assistance, she said.

“The programme has helped women with secondary school education or unemployed 
graduates take up a career in teaching,” said Dr Gaad. “It is the first collaboration of its kind.”

The World Health Organisation estimates the incidence of Down’s Syndrome between 1 in 1,000 births worldwide. In the UAE, the UAEDSA believes the incidence is higher.


Gulf News spoke to a few graduates.

Zahra Al Balushi, 35, said she will be working at Al Aqsa Primary School for Boys in Al Rashidiya. “I have bonded with my student Abdullah, 11,” she said. “He is in grade 4. Helping him makes me very happy.”

Sina Al Kulaib, 40, is training at the Dubai Modern Education School with 12-year-old Alia. “This is the kind of job I have always wanted to do,” she said.

Rihab Hashim Al Hashimi, 29, from Shurooq Kindergarten, is training to look after Shamma, six, who has Down’s Syndrome. She also helps with Rashid, six, who has autism. “I hope to join full-time soon,” she said.