AL AIN: When school social worker Shaikha Al Nuaimi tweeted a video of her students as she greeted them one morning, she could not have imagined that it would be seen and be retweeted by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to his 10 million followers. And the next thing she knew was that she received the Prime Minister’s medal at the UAE cabinet meeting, a moment she describes as the “greatest honour of her life”.
She told Gulf News: “I’m filled with pride and gratitude. The fact that His Highness took notice of my tweet shows that he is an observant leader who truly cares about his people. What you saw [in the video] was genuine and it is our responsibility to care for the children. I love my country very much and I would go above and beyond for it and for my leaders. The fact that he noticed my tweet and that I met him was the greatest honour of my life. I’m just glad I made my mum proud and hopefully my late father as well.”
"I hope to be an inspiration for many people to spread positivity in their day-to-day lives. A kind word can make a world of difference to a growing child."
As the tweet went viral, Shaikha was praised for her positivity and ability to share happiness among her students as they walk into Al Alia School in Al Ain. In the video, she’s heard endearingly encouraging students and saying, “Smiles, I want to see smiles.”
Sense of generosity
Commenting on the positivity that she was commended for, she said: “I was raised this way by my mother and father who instilled in me a sense of generosity and compassion. Positivity is within us. Learning to be positive comes from learning to be content. Everyone faces trials and tribulations, but we have to overcome that. How do we do that? By having faith, optimism and believing in our own strength and resilience to overcome anything we face. That is how positivity is found.”
She believes that being grateful for little things allows a person to channel that sense of positivity, “We wake up every morning, we’re breathing and we’re healthy; that’s enough to feel positive and content with what we have. I’m particularly grateful to be living in a great country and under great leadership that instills in me the spirit of happiness and generosity.”
As thousands of comments flooded the heartwarming video tweet, many of the responses referred to Shaikha as ‘Mama Shaikha’, a nickname she’s known for at her school. “When I first joined the school many years ago, I asked the students to call me ‘Mama Shaikha’. The school principal at the time was confused by the nickname. I was told I’m still young and not a mother. I insisted that I was indeed a mother, and these students are my children. When a student comes to school, I want them to feel like they have a mother here too. A student’s performance improves in a loving and familial environment. The words, ‘school is your second home’, shouldn’t be taken lightly. You can push a student to do well, but if you do it with love, with care and nurture them, the results would be much more fruitful. If a student misbehaves, we can’t simply reprimand them, we must guide them towards the right actions like a mother or a parent would.”
Promoting national pride
One of the most important values that Shaikha loves to instill in her students is a sense of nationalism and love for the country: “Every morning we all stand for the national anthem before the UAE flag. I explain to my students that attending school is part of expressing one’s love and appreciation for their country. Gradually, I began to notice that absenteeism went down. Students would always try to come early and once they hear the national anthem, even if they’re outside of the campus, they all stop and stand. Instilling a sense of national pride is extremely important to me.”
As a social worker, Shaikha does a lot of counselling. She believes that parents need to be aware of this important service that is provided in every school and utilise it to benefit their children, “It is a service that provides students with a lot of encouragement and has a very positive effect on them.”
Although Shaikha shies away from the spotlight, she does understand that she now has a responsibility to spread a message, “I’m planning many upcoming initiatives to promote positivity and I’ll increase the number of workshops that I do in school. I hope to be an inspiration for many people to spread positivity in their day-to-day lives. A kind word can make a world of difference to a growing child. All that I hope for is that one day, a student would look back when they’re older and say, ‘I’m grateful to Mama Shaikha’.”