Published: Fri 18 Nov 2022, 5:40 PM
Last updated: Fri 18 Nov 2022, 5:43 PM
Eighteen-year-old Omotola Ajike was already over the moon when he learnt he was about to receive an award from the Dubai Government — little did he know he would meet no less than the emirate's Crown Prince.
Omotola was one of the 50 high-achieving students who met Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as they were honoured for academic excellence on Wednesday morning.
The high school achievers — 25 Emiratis and 25 expats — were identified through a smart electronic system. And based on a directive issued by the Dubai Crown Prince, they will be offered financial rewards and scholarships. The expats will be given the Golden Visa as well.
“I knew that it was his initiative, but I wasn’t really expecting to meet him,” said the Nigerian expat who was born and raised in the UAE and graduated from Al Salam Community School.
“It was beyond my wildest dreams. I felt honoured that I was one of those chosen for this award. The scholarship money will definitely be a huge help for my future studies and once I get the Golden Visa sorted, I hope to sponsor my family.”
Always a hard worker, Omotola said that as ironic as it may seem, her failures were the reason behind her success.
“There were times when my grades were not what I wanted it to be,” she said. “Those helped me understand where I was lacking and work harder. Also, my parents had never pressurised me into anything. My family is my biggest strength.”
Emirati top-scorer Noora Mansoor Essa Lootah also shared her excitement at being able to meet Sheikh Hamdan. “It felt like a huge accomplishment,” she said. “He then congratulated us on our hard work and said that he was proud of us. He was so friendly.”
Immediately after the ceremony, Noora returned to her alma mater, Al Mawakeb School, Al Khawaneej, to share her joy with her teachers.
“My school and teachers played a huge part in me being able to achieve what I did. I wanted to thank them again for their efforts.”
Studying to be a lawyer like her role model father, Noora dreams of becoming a high-ranking official in the country.
In coordination with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and Dubai’s public and private schools, the smart electronic system standardises high school results across different curricula to ensure fairness while calculating grades.
For Syrian expat Tayseer Mohamed Arar, the ceremony was a dream come true. “I was so excited and happy to meet Sheikh Hamdan,” he said.
“He spoke about how he hoped we would work with him side by side to build a good future for Dubai. As an expat, it was amazing to know that I am valued here for my contributions.”
Currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering at the American University in Sharjah, Tayseer is the youngest of four siblings. “However, I am the only one who got to meet Sheikh Hamdan. I will be glad to boast about that to my siblings for the foreseeable future.”
For Fatma Riad Mohammed Khalfan Belhoul, the recognition was a reward for the hard work she put in.
“He addressed us as “Al-nukhba”, which literally translates into "the elites” she said. “To be recognised and awarded by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan is a true honour. Reaching this milestone after persistently going great lengths is certainly fulfilling!”
((PHOTO: Fatma Belhoul))
Studying to be a surgeon at the Mohammed Bin Rashid University Of Medicine and Health Sciences, Fatma said the scholarship will be used to cover her tuition fee. She hopes to be a driving force that positively contributes to the lives of all those around her.
For Briton Mariam Gulamhusein, who is hoping to pursue a biomedical degree in the US, the Golden Visa would be a huge blessing. “Dubai is home to me and after my studies, I want to return there,” she said. “Having the Golden Visa will definitely make movement and travel to the country much easier for me.”
A graduate of the American School Dubai, Mariam said she was extremely excited to see Sheikh Hamdan.
“The leaders of Dubai have been visionary, and I grew up admiring them,” she said. “The chance to actually meet Sheikh Hamdan, even if it was through video conferencing, is something I value and cherish.”
“It was an honour to be part of this,” said Emirati Ahmed Mohammed Yousuf Al Muallem, who joined virtually from London, where he is studying in King’s college for Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Management.
“Sheikh Hamdan talked to us about our dreams and told us that we can achieve whatever we wanted. I am very eager to complete my studies and serve my country to the best of ability.”