Dubai: September 5 is regarded as Teacher’s Day in India. For the occasion, an Indian school in Dubai is honouring its long-serving Arabic teacher who is preparing to retire after 40 years.
Ebtihal Abdullah Al Ghannam, who is from Egypt, had joined the The Indian High Group of Schools (IHS) in 1982 as an 18-year old. IHS CEO Punit MK Vasu said: “It is rare to see such a commitment and we are so honoured to have her in our school.”
Al Ghannam, now 58, said: “I am privileged to have worked under the founding principal Dr Moti Prakash and the founding headmaster Dr JC Shah. I will be retiring in the next two months. My life will be different after a such a long-standing tenure in the Indian school. We are all one big family and I will surely miss everyone after I retire.”
She added: “Such a long part of my life was spent at the school. I believe it was only possible because we are led by such a great management. My students also inspired me to stay and it kept me motivated.”
‘My second home’
Al Ghannam recalled how what was meant to be a short tenure turned into a lifetime career.
“I had just finished my grade 12 from Sukainah High School here in UAE [in 1982]. My father gave me permission to just work for six months as he had other plans for me. But that six months period stretched out to 40 long years – that too in the same school. The Indian High School is my second home and the staff are all my extended family.”
She said during her journey at IHS, she was promoted many times. “I worked as a coordinator for Arabic, then went onto become Head of Department [Arabic]. I then became Assistant Supervisor and then Supervisor for the entire Arabic Department.”
The school too has seen major changes since her early years.
Sands to lawns
“We have 13,000 students now compared to the few thousand we had back in early 80s. The school also opened a full- fledged campus at DSO. When I joined we had just two buildings and a very basic campus. There was an open stage with a huge sandy lawn. There were window ACs in the class-rooms. School corridors did not have air-conditioners and the buses did not have any air conditioning either. Gradually the school developed and now we have three campuses with central AC setup. The corridors are air-conditioned and we have lawns developed with grass and trees,” she said.
Inside the classroom also there have been developments.
“I have seen many changes in the syllabus and in the methods of teaching too. Back in the days there was no technology and it was a strict chalk and talk method. Today, technology has taken over everything and the blackboard is missing completely from classrooms. It was quite a feat for me as well to adopt technology for teaching Arabic.”
Al Ghanam said: “IHS was my first job and I grew in my personal life along with the school. I added educational qualifications, I got married had children. On the side I was growing within the school as well and was given more responsibilities. Just as I could not leave my family, I could not leave IHS.”
“But now as I near 60 years of age and my health not supporting me, I decided it was time to retire,” added Al Ghannam, whose husband works for a government organisation in Dubai.
She has two sons, both of whom are engineers, and a daughter. “My elder one stays in Poland and the younger one is in Dubai. My daughter is a dentist living in Syria.”
Educator of generations
IHS CEO Vasu said: “Mrs Al Ghannam is a wonderful and dedicated person who has excelled as an educator over the past 40 years. She underpins the not-for-profit ethos of The Indian High School of giving so much more without expecting anything back in return. She has taught generations of learners over the past four decades and our Arabic department has thrived and grown under her.”
He added: “We are so sad to see her go but happy she wants to spend time with her family and friends. She remains an integral part of the fabric of our school and has based the baton to her team who have been trained under her capable eye. We will continue to seek her guidance and wisdom and build on the outstanding foundations she las laid down for teaching and learning of Arabic across our school.”