School national day
Schools across the country have already started holding events to celebrate the 51st UAE National Day. Pupils from Nibras International Schools perform to mark the day

Abu Dhabi: Schools across the UAE have kicked off the UAE’s 51st National Day celebrations in full swing, with many lining up activities and decking the halls in red, green, white and black for the last two weeks of November.

With performances paying tribute to the heritage and history of the UAE, and a range of traditional activities made available to students, parents and educators, the spirit of the UAE’s union has come alive ahead of the occasion. Educators are also taking the opportunity to highlight values that the nation holds dear, and impart learning about the diversity of the UAE community.

Early start

Because they will be shut for the Martyrs Day and National Day holiday from Thursday (December 1) onwards, many schools began marking the occasion early. Students and educators dressed in the colours of the UAE flag to herald the 51st National Day, and highlighted the country’s rich poetry, culture and spoken history.

KHDA joins in

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Dubai’s private education regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), attended celebrations at the Raffles World Academy. The festivities, which included student performances, a colourful souq, carnival and food stations, were organised by the school’s Emirati parents, and saw 2,500 guests in attendance. During his visit, Dr Al Karam inaugurated the school’s new 600-seat multipurpose hall.

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Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General, KHDA, was the guest of honour for UAE National Day celebrations at Raffles World Academy, Dubai’s leading IB curriculum school. He inaugurated the school’s state-of-the-art 600-seat multipurpose hall, a new hub of excellence for the school community, designed to enhance learning and achievements in creative arts and sport. More than 2500 guests attended the event. The school’s Emirati parent community organised a fun-packed day of activities, which included a colourful souq, carnival and food stations serving traditional Emirati delicacies. Indoors, the new multipurpose hall hosted performances by gymnasts, acrobats and dancers in UAE-themed costumes.

“Our UAE National Day celebrations reflect the diversity, creativity and wonderful community at the heart of our school. The new multipurpose hall is underpinned by this ethos. We look forward to hosting many more celebrations, showcasing our incredible student talent across sports and performing arts, supported by their loved ones in the audience,” said Timothy Roberts, school principal at Raffles.

This year represents the first time in two years that educational institutions have been able to celebrate in grand fashion, following the removal of pandemic-related restrictions for the education community.

Celebrating tradition

“GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi parents, students and staff planned a whole day of UAE cultural celebrations, which included the first two shows on our new Al Reem Island campus, with over 400 parents in attendance. The event, which took place last Friday {November 25}, resulted in the whole community coming together as they enjoyed performances, UAE cuisine and traditional activities. The new campus performance hall had a buzz of excitement and was full of smiles and happiness as parents and staff were thrilled by the quality of the performances that the children gave,” said Kelvin Hornsby, principal and chief executive officer at the school, and vice president for education at GEMS Education.

Students at the school were able to enjoy loved traditional activities like henna art, and also engage with a falcon, the UAE’s national bird that is especially important to the Emirati sport of falconry.

“At GEMS Royal Dubai School, we celebrated National Day on November 29 by bringing our community back into school. We have had a whole-school assembly led by students, showcasing traditional dance, poetry and the history of the UAE. Parents joined their children as they visited a variety of marketplaces around the school grounds featuring traditional henna designs, face painting, camel rides, drama, arts and crafts, and a virtual tour through the last 51 years of UAE history using our virtual reality headsets. It has been fantastic to see students, staff and parents dressed in traditional UAE attire and the colours of the UAE flag as we celebrate this wonderful occasion,” added Jan Steel, principal and chief executive officer at GEMS Royal Dubai School.

Cultural activities were aplenty at the celebrations organised by Repton Abu Dhabi and Repton Dubai.

“At Repton Abu Dhabi, both Rose and Fry campus communities came together to celebrate the UAE’s 51st National Day. The day was full of fun, laughter and of course, food! We enjoyed getting to explore some of the UAE’s heritage and culture through live cooking stations, traditional games, basket weaving, camel rides, falcons, henna, and much more,” said Steven Lupton, Repton Abu Dhabi principal.

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UAE National Day celebrations at Raffles World Academy

Looking forward

“It was wonderful to see the whole school celebrate the history, culture and traditions of the UAE, on this very special day. It was certainly colourful, thoroughly enjoyable, with a theme of sustainability and caring for our precious planet. We were delighted that Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister for State for Foreign Trade, was our honoured guest speaker, as he was able to [emphasis] this message to the whole community,” added David Cook, headmaster at Repton Dubai.

“Having been a school principal in the UAE For eleven year, I have a clear understanding of why the National Day is so important to the community and the host nation. At The Aquila School, we do of course want to celebrate the remarkable achievements of the UAE — but we also want to use this as an opportunity to further learning as well. This year the theme for National Day is ‘Looking back and facing forward’ — learning about the heritage and past achievements of the UAE while also learning about the exciting plans for the future. As our first post-Covid UAE National Day, we are looking forward to the whole school being together to learn and celebrate — and for families to be able to come along too!” said Wayne Howsen, principal at The Aquila School in Dubai.

Student excitement

Students, on the other hand, were excited to dress in flag colours, and to learn about Emirati culture through a retinue of enjoyable performances and activities.

“It was really beautiful that after two years of Covid restrictions, we were free to finally all come together and have so much fun. We were celebrating National Day so much more than usual — it reminded me of back when I was little and having huge family parties!” said Wdeema Al Mahrzi, a Year 6 student at GEMS World Academy — Abu Dhabi.

Another Year 6 student at the same school, Haya Kalla, loved engaging with the traditional arts.

“My favourite part was when we got to the Field of Dreams [that our school organised] and tried some UAE traditional food and henna painting to learn more about UAE culture. Everything was so unique, and everyone was so enthusiastic in terms of participation and contribution. It was a truly memorable day!” Kalla said.

UAE colours

“I am really looking forward to being part of the assembly and showing a traditional UAE dance. My favourite part about UAE National Day is being able to wear the colours of the UAE flag,” added Calla, a Year 2 student at The Aquila School.

UAE advancement

Students were also cognizant of the UAE’s journey of growth.

“In my opinion, the remarkable traditional dancers are the best part of National Day as we celebrate our unique past. Although we look at our past and celebrate it, we also celebrate the innovations of future leaders and our new traditions,” said Faris Al Araimi, the Emirati head boy at GEMS Royal Dubai School.

“We are celebrating the 51st anniversary of the UAE by showcasing how the country has progressed from a desert to a highly advanced city that is living in the future! It is undeniable that my favourite part of this incredible event are the VR headsets showing the country’s journey,” added Ayat Minhas, head girl at the school.