Schools in the UAE are helping tackle the country’s growing problem with obesity and other illnesses by using sport to enhance physical and mental well-being. Educators from a range of institutions explain what they’re doing to build a strong culture of sport, and how they plan to celebrate the first UAE National Sports Day — today.
Mitchell Hyde, Director of Sport, Jumeira Baccalaureate School Dubai
“For November, we have implemented our Fit-Novation initiative, which aims to continue to improve the culture of sport, wellness and healthy lifestyle choices within our community. We have planned a range of fun, fit and healthy activities.
“We have increased the amount of sport we deliver this year and are competing in primary and secondary swimming, basketball, football, netball, touch football, rounders and track. We also offer many extracurricular activities, including dance, aikido and gymnastics.
“In addition, our cafeteria offers a health-conscious menu, increasing the amount of healthy lifestyle choices for our students.”
Andrea McKinnon, Director of Athletics, Raha International School, Abu Dhabi
“On UAE National Sports Day, we are taking a group of students to the Abu Dhabi Corniche, where huge celebrations are scheduled to take place and our students will participate in a variety of sporting events.
“Our school offers a range of sports originating from different parts of the world, thereby catering to differing backgrounds. This academic term we have 16 teams in a variety of sports, including netball, swimming, soccer, touch rugby, basketball, volleyball and badminton.
“Our intramural activities at lunch times for house teams allow students who aren’t on a competitive team the chance to get involved, while other non-competitive activities include fitness classes, movement to music and yoga.”
Souhail Al Chedati, PE Dept, International School of Arts and Sciences, Dubai
“Besides standard sports classes, our sports department aims to build a culture of sport through a variety of means. The school posts sports routine videos on its online platforms that students can refer to and practise outside school hours. There are daily inter-class competitions during break times, Academia Management Solutions International championships, and clubs for fitness, dance and yoga. We participate in inter-school events, and our teams always come back victorious.”
Chris Jones, Head of Health, PE & Sport, Victoria International School Sharjah
“A football tournament will be played throughout the day on UAE National Sports Day. The mixed boys and girls teams will be based on nationality, with Emirati students pitted against rest-of-the-world teams.
“The UAE team will be playing in their national colours and are excited to band together.
“In PE, our students are involved in physical activities ranging from individual and non-competitive sports through to competitive team games. They progress from development of basic motor skills to performing complex movement patterns in team games.
“We have also hosted national and international sports stars recently, including former Australian wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, who held workshops with our talented cricketers.”
Tajammul A. Mirza, Principal, Al Sadiq Islamic English School, Dubai
“Our younger students will honour the UAE’s soldiers with a walkathon in military attire to mark the UAE National Sports Day. Drill displays with the UAE flag pattern are also part of the celebrations.
“We believe life skills built through participation in sports help students become better neighbours and responsible community members. So we weave sports into the curriculum and now offer athletics, gymnastics, football and more.
“Our school was the first to hold an inter-school table tennis tournament 18 years ago. We also host an inter-school U-10 cricket tournament. Our girls cricket teams are coached by Charvi Bhatt and Humaira Tasnim, former UAE team captain and vice-captain respectively.”
James Tucker, Principal Director, GEMS Sports Academy, Dubai
“We are an elite sports academy, where students follow an athletic syllabus and are trained to become professional athletes (approximately 23 hours per week). We fill a need for those who feel there are limited education options that allow their children to commit to specific sports training, while continuing to receive a high-quality education. Most of our students are high performers across sports.
“Having sport at the heart of the provision benefits students both mentally and physically. This, in combination with the academic rigour and global focus of the International Baccalaureate, gives them the skills required by the 21st-century leader.”
Stephen Sharples, Principal and CEO, GEMS First Point School, Dubai
“We have a fantastic array of sporting activities planned for UAE National Sports Day, which will foster the competitive spirit in all our students. They compete in a variety of sports, both traditional and alternative, throughout the day in order to earn points for their schoolhouse.
“All classes will be involved in a UAE National Sports Day quiz to raise awareness of the importance of sport and will also have time scheduled to compete in a variety of sports. The focus will be on fostering the spirit of friendly competition.”