Zita Devadasan and Zakiya Omran, two long-serving teachers at Our Own English School — Sharjah (OOS), recently retired with three quarters of a century’s experience between them. Here, they reflect on their time in education.
Zita Devadasan and Zakiya Omran both started their education careers at Our Own English School — Dubai. Zita joined in 1989 and taught the boys in the afternoon shift for nine months, before being transferred to Modern High School (now GEMS Modern Academy), where she taught Grades 9 and 10. After two years she filled in for another teacher as the Officiating Supervisor for girls, and thereafter was named the Supervisor for KG — Grade 4. In 2001, she came to OOS until her retirement.
Zakiya came to Dubai from Palestine when she was only 22 years old. She specialised in teaching Arabic, and when she learned of the vacancy at Our Own English School — Dubai, she applied and started work. From there she transferred to Cambridge International School where there were several Arab students, and she eventually became the Head of the Arabic Department, a post she held for eight years. In 1991, she moved over to her final post at OOS.
Both teachers have seen remarkable developments over their respective tenures. For Zakiya’s part, the developments were marked in Arabic education in the UAE. “There was no Arabic syllabus here; we adapted the Lebanese Arabic syllabus. We switched to the Saudi Arabia book, I like Arabic, in 1985 and we have continued to use it since,” she says. Zakiya adds that she worked to improve the teaching methodology in the classroom, explaining that it had been the norm for teachers to translate everything in the classroom. When she became Supervisor in 2010, she told the Arabic teachers not to speak English during Arabic lessons, and the increased exposure to language saw a drastic improvement in students’abilities. This improvement was compounded by sending students on field trips according to the lessons they were learning, with the objective that students had to communicate in Arabic.
Zita notes the quantifiable difference in the number of GEMS Education’s schools, as well as the number of blocks within each school. “There were only two blocks when I joined OOS but now there are four. There have been new curricula introduced as well — I have taught Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) to Grades 9 and 10 in GEMS Modern Academy, as well as Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) at OOS,” says Zita.
Looking ahead both teachers are unsure of what the future holds. For the time being Zita will continue her routine of starting her day at 4am and doing her daily walks, while Zakiya is going to enjoy her rest and take things as they come.