An Emirati has offered to take unpaid leave from his government job to become a teacher in a bid to change perceptions of the profession.
Khalid Al Ameri, a 31-year-old Master of Business Administration graduate of Stanford University in the US, on Monday met Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, director general of Abu Dhabi Education Council, after publishing an open letter to Adec on Twitter with his intentions.
“I first got acquainted with the programme Teach for US,” he said. “We got to understand the model they use in getting highly educated people into teaching positions for a certain amount of time and having that flow of people going into primary and secondary schools, from the highest calibre [of universities] in the US.
“A Princeton graduate can go to Wall Street or Silicon Valley but he chooses to go through this programme and give back to society.”
The same programme was launched in the Emirates, Teach for UAE. “I was reading about the education sector when I came back last summer and we always hear about the lack of Emiratis,” Mr Al Ameri said.
“But I saw a bit of hope when Adec was looking at Teach for UAE where they get the highest-educated Emiratis into the worst schools in the system to get the maximum impact.”
He said he made his decision after reading that many Emirati men were scornful of the teaching profession.
“It really annoyed me,” he said. “It got under my skin because I studied, I was supported and it opened my eyes because I saw some of the smartest people in the US were going through this programme, giving back and succeeding in life. Part of their profile is ingrained in giving back to their community.”
It prompted his decision to write to Adec. “I like to believe I’m good at what I do,” said Mr Al Ameri, who is also a columnist for The National. “I’m educated to try to shake things and be a champion for this, so I’ll take as much unpaid leave as I need from work for a school of their choosing.”
His letter went viral on Twitter. “There won’t be a difference if I go in by myself,” he said. “It’s a movement, not a government programme. It’s young kids saying ‘let’s give back’ and this is what you need here. I want a kid to say ‘this Emirati who went to Stanford doesn’t need to be doing this but he’s doing it because he feels it’s his duty’. How is educating the youth frowned upon?”
So far, four Emirati women have agreed to join father of two Mr Al Ameri. “It’s about creating what this is supposed to do,” he said. “Teach for all is a pipeline of high-calibre people to have a big impact. We have to make this a movement because people are stuck in bureaucracy and I’m here and ready if they’re serious to teach for the UAE, it needs to be proven in front of everyone.”
Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Adec’s director general, said: “We are very happy and proud a young prominent Emirati is willing and enthusiastic to take this noble profession, even if it were only for a limited period of time.”
She said she hoped it would set a good example to other young male and female Emiratis to consider this option in their career to help shape the future of the UAE. “Adec’s family looks forward to this important addition to its ranks,” she said.