Although 2019 is the Year of Tolerance, Deema Al-Alami, Vice President Education — Arabic & Islamic, says it is a quality that should be continuously encouraged.
Tolerance and empathy are crucial attributes a child needs to navigate in today’s globalised world, where media often polarises people and focuses on what sets us apart rather than what brings us together. I cannot think of a better place to teach my children and our students how to be tolerant than the United Arab Emirates. With over 200 nationalities residing in this diverse country, interactions with people from various nationalities daily is the norm.
This unique set-up allows our own children and students to experience first-hand what it means to be tolerant. Learning about others’ cultures and new languages at school and from friends, celebrating cultural and religious events with schoolmates and neighbours (different to one’s own) and being taught by teachers from around the world, nurtures this unique quality in our children and students.
This enriching and fully immersive experience in the UAE will not only benefit students in their educational journey but also in the future when they become active contributors to our economies. Learning how to collaborate, interact and accommodate the needs of others helps transform our students from citizens to global citizens. Therefore, I am a firm believer that teaching tolerance should be done in both a systematic and spontaneous way.
Having a national campaign to celebrate tolerance is an incredible systematic way that makes all citizens conscious of their actions and reactions to people who are different to themselves. Schools can raise students’ awareness of their tolerant behaviours, and continually and systematically expose them to opportunities and experiences at school that cultivate tolerance and, most importantly, celebrate it.
This regular exposure will have a lifelong impact on our students’ social-emotional development and, hopefully, their ability to contribute
to their communities.
This systematic exposure paired with the day-to-day interactions in this diverse country, where people can experience the Emirati and Muslim culture while openly and freely celebrating their own unique culture is a distinctive and rare experience. These experiences enable students to become intrinsically tolerant and carry that attribute with them long after they leave the UAE to return home. In a relatively short span of time, a student in the UAE can celebrate and learn about Emirati cultural events (such as Haq Al Lailah), go to church to celebrate Easter, experience Diwali at school and learn about Ramadan – all of which are done in a respectful and open way. This for me, is a priceless opportunity for every student here and essential to the world we live in now.