Manama: Shaikha Mouza Bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, said that US communities would be better exposed to the Arab culture thanks to the Arabic programme launched at a New York school.

“I enjoyed hearing the children speak in Arabic so enthusiastically,” she said. “It was lovely to see that most of them are not of Arab origin, which means the language reaches families and communities who have not been exposed to our culture previously,” Shaikha Mouza, a global education advocate, said during a visit to P.S. 368 elementary school in Harlem where students took Arabic, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported.

Harlem’s P.S. 368 is the first public elementary school in New York City to offer Arabic Language classes for more than 200 students, in grades K-5. According to NY1, several second-graders at the school chose to study Arabic this year instead of recess.

“We wanted to choose a language that would be reflective of some of the community but also a language that would really help students in their future career,” Angela Jackson of the Global Language Project said, quoted by the news medium.

The school and its partners said there was a need for more Americans to speak Arabic, especially that the State Department in 2001 labelled Arabic a critical language in light of US security and business interests.

However, schools have been slow to offer Arabic and when the Khalil Gibran Academy, an Arabic dual language middle school, opened in 2007 in Brooklyn, conservative groups protested against it, NY1 said.

The rejection eventually caused the ousting of the founding principal.

However, P.S. 368 and its partners built support for the programme before launching it.

The parent association approved the plan first and then presented the idea to the rest of the parents who accepted it.

“Global Language had the right approach to building the support of the school, of the community,” Maggie Mitchell Salem of the Qatar Foundation said, quoted by NY1.

Teachers hope that the students will acquire linguistic skills and will be able to understand the Middle East and Arab culture.

Shaikha Mouza, the wife of Qatar’s Emir, is in New York to attend a number of high-level meetings and to launch initiatives on the sidelines of the 67th session of the UN General Assembly, QNA said.

Qatar Foundation International (QFI), founded by Shaikha Mouza to promote education as a force that facilitates collaboration across geographic, social, and cultural boundaries, sponsors the Arabic language and culture programme in Harlem.