National Charity School first opened in 1983 offering free education to expat kids whose families couldn’t afford school fees
“Education is the best donation,” says HE Juma al Majid, a well-known local businessman whose interests span real estate, hospitality, trade and more. Having established the Juma Almajid Heritage and Cultural Centre that now houses over half a million books, many on the history of the UAE, Al Majid felt strongly about ensuring education was accessible to all children in the UAE.
He says, “In the 1950s, with my colleagues Mr. Humaid Al Tayer, Abdullah Al Ghurair and Nasir Rashid Loutah, and with the consent of HH Sheikh Rashed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, we established one of the first
charitable societies and through this we opened two secondary schools. One for boys in Bur Dubai, called Jamal Abdul Nasser Secondary School, and the second for girls in Deira, called Amna Secondary School.”
In 1983, when the Ministry of Education issued a resolution which only allowed the children of expatriate public sector workers to attend state schools, Al Majid set about establishing the National Charity School in Dubai. At the time he was the Head of the Father’s Council at the Dubai Educational Zone and managed to garner the support of the Ministry of Education which continues to offer technical and administrative help.
Now, thanks to the efforts of HE Juma al Majid approximately 11,000 children are receiving an affordable education, some for free, and those who can afford to, give a small donation. Children start in Grade 1 at six-years-old and there are segregated halls for boys and girls. All lessons are in Arabic and children from all over the world attend the school.
The first National Charity School opened in the Deira area of Dubai in 1983 with 161 students but soon outgrew its residence and therefore a much larger school was established in Al Garhoud in 1986. Since then other schools followed in Sharjah and Ajman.
As a local, Juma Al Majid understood the difficulties some women faced in reaching Al Ain University or traveling abroad for an education and so he established the Islamic and Arabic Studies College in 1987 in Dubai. The college accepts students from all over the GCC and is accredited by Al Azhar University, Dar Al Uloom College and the UAE Ministry of Higher Education. About 3,700 students, 2,500 females, and 1,200 males are now attending the college. Al Majid says when you educate a girl you bring light in to the home.
“We are proud to be able to say we have over 3,300 female graduates. Helping to ensure women who have a thirst for knowledge are able to access it is important. We also offer post graduate education in Islamic Science and Arabic. We grant Master of Arts and PhD degrees in jurisprudence and Arabic language. We have had over 132 females enrolled in higher education with us,” he says.
A proud moment for the National Charity School came when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum paid a visit to the school in February 2013. Dr. Kamal Mohamed Farhat, Director of all three schools recounts the story with pride.
“The visit came about when one of our young pupils was at the airport with her family travelling back home for the holiday. At the airport she saw His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and rushed over to greet him. His Highness was very kind to her and asked her what she would like from him. Most children would ask for an expensive gift of some kind. What our pupil asked for is a great source of pride to us. She begged him to come and visit her school. Arrangements were made and we were so proud to welcome His Highness here to our school. He toured all the classrooms and spent time with the children,” he says.
There is clearly a great deal of pride taken by teachers and pupils of the school. The uniforms are smart, the school buildings pristine, but it is a constant struggle explains Dr Farhat. “We have long waiting lists and more children need to attend the school then we can accommodate. We need resources for equipment, books and teaching. All our staff work so hard because they care deeply about giving young people an education but they work very long hours. They begin in the morning with the first shift of children and after a break in the afternoon return to teach the second shift that attend in the evening.”
Over 47 nationalities are represented by pupils of the school, many from beleaguered Syria, others from Pakistan, Taiwan, America and even China. All learning together in Arabic producing a truly multi-cultural and united community whose benefits will extend far beyond the classroom.