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School's educators put their money where their belief is

SHARJAH // Nasra Saif continues with the day's lesson at Al Andulus School, despite the noise of drilling and hammering coming from outside her classroom.

The children are learning the Arabic phonetic letter 'waw', which is not unlike the English letter W.

Ms Saif points to a computer presentation and asks the girls to come to the front of the class and identify the images and words that use the letter.

"Who can come and circle 'waw' in this sentence?" the teacher asks.

Ghalia Maher, 6, reluctantly points out the right letter.

"Aiwa [yes]," Ms Saif applauds.

The pupils will have to tolerate the noise for a few more months before they can fully appreciate the modern environment their principal, Mariam Abdulla, is trying to create.

Ms Abdulla is sparing no effort to ensure the children have the best to enable them to follow the Madares Al Ghad (Mag) curriculum, which was introduced in 2007.

"This year I need to change all the classroom desks, replace the unsafe toilets and improve the play areas," she says.

But with the limited annual operational budget provided by the Government, such changes were not possible.

Ms Abdulla has already pitched in Dh10,000 from her own pocket for this: "It's fine. After all, it is my school."

The Mag curriculum, which focuses on bilingual education, uses technology and resources to enhance the learning experience.

But without support to implement the necessary changes, many principals say the programme will not improve performance.

At Al Andalus, however, teachers are determined to make the best use of what they have and are encouraged by the steady results.

Eman Salim, the Islamic-studies teacher, has decorated her classroom to look like a mosque.

"This way the children understand the lesson better," Ms Salim says.

Her personal expense for the fixtures, carpets, furniture and books for the room was Dh5,000.

"I know the children like studying Islamic here because it feels like a mosque," Ms Salim says.

Her colleague Najla Ibrahim, a Grade 3 teacher, says it is more fun teaching the children now.

"We take them to the garden, do puppet shows, presentations … it keeps them interested," Ms Ibrahim says.

Amna Abdul Razzaq, the supervisor of school facilities, says more needs to be done but what they had already achieved was yielding great results.

"If I compare, before there was no discipline in the school and it wasn't so neat either," Ms Abdul Razzaq says. "We weren't using the computer and teachers were not using internet resources like Google for lessons. The real results show in the pupils' performance."

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