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Two UAE schools shortlisted for $250,000 global awards

Schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been recognised for their efforts to protect the environment

Staff Reporter

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Two schools in the UAE have been shortlisted for the new $250,000 World’s Best School Prizes.

Gems Legacy School in Dubai and Shining Star International School in Abu Dhabi have been named among the best schools in the world for helping to protect the environment.

Children are also going to restaurants near the school asking owners not to supply food in plastic bags.

They are both Indian curriculum schools.

The cash prize will be distributed between the winning schools in five categories – environmental action, innovation, community collaboration, overcoming adversity, and supporting healthy living.

There are 10 finalists in each category. Each winner will receive $50,000.

Students refilling their bottles from the water fountain at the GEMS Legacy School in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Gems Legacy School has been named among the top 10 for environmental action, while Shining Star International School is among the top 10 in the innovation category.

The awards have been launched this year by T4 Education, a global organisation that aims to improve the quality of learning, alongside consulting company Accenture and American Express.

The prizes aim to recognise schools for the role they play in developing the next generation and for their contribution to society.

Gems Legacy School, previously known as Kindergarten Starters, charges fees from Dh7,888 ($2,150) in kindergarten to Dh10,528 in Grade 5.

Fees at Shining Star International School range from Dh8,791 in kindergarten to Dh16,815 in Grade 12.

“We have launched the World’s Best School Prizes as a grass-roots solution to help build the systemic change needed,” said Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education.

“By telling the stories of inspirational schools that are transforming the lives of their pupils and making a real difference in their communities, schools can share their best practices and have their voices heard at the top table to help transform education.

“I want to congratulate Gems Legacy School and Shining Star International School for making it to the top 10 shortlists for the inaugural prize.

“Educators all over the world will now be able to learn from the examples of these outstanding UAE schools.”

Students refilling their bottles from the water fountain at the GEMS Legacy School in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Replacing plastic water bottles with old-style water fountain

Gems Legacy School has carried out a campaign to replace single-use water bottles with environmentally friendly fountains.

Asha Alexander, executive leader for climate change at Gems Education and the principal of the school, told The National in February that the school had 16 water stations, with plans to install a further 12 before the end of the year.

The Dubai Can sustainability initiative, which was started by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, encourages people to carry refillable water bottles, use free water fountains across the city and cut down on plastic waste.

Pupils at the school also collected discarded plastic bottles from their homes and neighbourhoods for an initiative called Simply Bottles. The plastic they gathered was recycled to create yarn for clothing.

Children also encouraged restaurants near the school to avoid using plastic bags for their deliveries.

Reducing the carbon footprint in school

Shining Star International School is focused on reducing its carbon footprint. Pupils are working to improve air quality by planting trees on the school grounds.

In 2021, it was one of five schools in the country to win a global award for its efforts to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

The school worked with others in India and Poland to find solutions to the climate crisis.

School Principal Abhilasha Singh said they teach children gratitude and empathy and hopes to win the award.

“Some of the funds will be used to address any resource crunches at the school while a part of it will be set aside to help pupils who are unable to pay fees,” she said.

“We have pledged a small amount of the money to project Kakuma and to refugee camps in Kakuma.”

The Kakuma Project unites teachers across 75 countries offering free quality education to African refugees.

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