The International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), the global leader in pre-emptive species conservation, and the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) have announced the winners of the 2021 Young Conservationist Authors competition. The work of the fifteen winning teams of students from schools across the UAE has been published in a book, ‘Stories from our Environment’, which was 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. 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 15 years since the formation of IFHC, and the winning stories, along with their illustrations, are published in the book.
Her Excellency 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 awareness of students 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.
Book released at ADIHEX showcases creativity and commitment of the UAE’s young conservationists
H.E. Al Muhairi pointed that publishing students’ write-ups on houbara conservation is a way to motivate them to educate their peers about the importance of conserving the houbara, which is associated with the Emirati heritage. H.E. added: “The Houbara Model Educational Programme 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.”
His Excellency 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 honour to publish their stories. They were written by young people 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.”
Through its collaborative and innovative approach to storytelling, the short stories offer a unique insight into how today’s students see the world around them. The book aims to inspire young people to become champions of the environment with the global goal of promoting sustainable development, biodiversity, ecological preservation and conservation.
The illustrated book contains a kaleidoscope of emotive stories that see families head into the Arabian Desert, surrounded by an abundance of wildlife and natural habitats, among flocks of oryx to desert oases, to discover the native birds bringing stories of their endangered natural habitats to life on a level that resonates with conservationists young and old.
Winners were chosen in a nationwide competition across schools throughout the UAE
Commenting on her role in bringing the book to life, 17-year-old Sheikha Ali Al-Naddas Al-Ketbi from Al Bradi School, 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 sustainably preserve it. I now realise 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 programme is designed to create the conservationists of tomorrow in line with UAE’s objectives for sustainability. To reflect this national priority, the Houbara Model is now fully integrated into the UAE’s National Curriculum.