The International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC) and the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) announced the 2021 Young Conservationist Authors competition winners. The work of the fifteen winning teams of students from schools across the UAE has been published in a book, “Stories from our Environment,” unveiled at the Abu Dhabi Hunting and Equestrian Exhibition (ADIHEX).
The Short Story Challenge was launched during the last school year in collaboration between IFHC and ESE to all schools in the UAE, WAM states. Working in teams, students were asked to write a story to highlight one of three subjects: the “Significance of the Houbara in Emirati Culture,” the “Role of an Ecologist,” and “Conservation of a Desert Species and its Threats.” To promote collaboration and creativity, the teams included writers, designers, editors, and illustrators.
Sixty schools submitted entries, of which 30 were long-listed. Fifteen winning teams were chosen to represent the fifteen years since the formation of IFHC, and the winning stories, along with their illustrations, are published in the book.
Jameela bint Salem Mesbeh Al Muhairi, Minister of State for Public Education and Chairperson of the Board of Emirates Schools Establishment, said, “ESE is committed to raising students’ awareness about the importance of conserving the houbara bustard, in line with the directives of the government. The establishment is also trying to engage them in conservation efforts.
She added, “The Houbara Model Educational Program is designed to nurture future advocates of environmental conservation. This represents an important step towards achieving that goal as well as adding strength to the foundation for success over the next 50 years in our country’s strides towards achieving sustainability.”
Majid Ali Al Mansouri, Managing Director, IFHC, said, “I want to thank all the schools and students who entered the competition. The standard was very high, and it was difficult to choose the winners; and I extend my congratulations to them all; it is our honor to publish their stories. Young people wrote them for young people, parents, and the conservation community, and they really show the passion young people have for preserving the world around them. The preservation of our environment and our heritage is a priority of the UAE, and the quality of the stories we are publishing today shows the future is in good hands.”
Commenting on her role in bringing the book to life, 17-year-old Sheikha Ali Al-Naddas Al-Ketbi from Al Bradi School for elementary and secondary education, who wrote with her co-authors “Our Ship, We Will Protect It,” said, “This experience enriched my literary side and unleashed my imagination. It encouraged me to apply my artistic skill in electronic drawing, which played a major role in developing various aspects of my personality. I hope to have the opportunity to participate again in such meaningful and interesting exercises.”
Adding to Al-Ketbi’s insights, eight-year-old student Amer Mohamed Butaina, from Aspen Heights British School Abu Dhabi, who participated in the competition, said, “I truly consider it one of the best competitions that provided a unique educational value that stimulated my curiosity to know more about the Houbara and the efforts of IFHC to preserve it sustainably. I now realize the importance of understanding our role, as the future generation, to support these efforts. I am proud of my participation, and I look forward to taking part in more similar activities.”
The Houbara Education Model uses the Houbara as a flagship species for education content to explore issues around sustainability and heritage. The model uses a blended learning approach that integrates technology and innovative educative tools to create a learning experience for students across the UAE. As well as informing students, the program is designed to create the conservationists of tomorrow in line with UAE’s objectives for sustainability. The Houbara Model is now fully integrated into the UAE’s National Curriculum to reflect this national priority.
You may read here about a recently published book that documents the most important milestones in the EAD – Abu Dhabi journey to preserve the natural heritage.