A Magical Evening with Maradona

Fujairah is a wonderful place to live in. It is a gem of a destination that has a great deal to offer. Fujairah never ceases to amaze. The lads from GEMS Our Own, Fujairah invited me to accompany them to the Fujairah Sports Club where they practice. That was the evening that it dawned on me that the possibilities in Fujairah are endless. Anything can happen on a Thursday evening, even a meeting with the one and only Diego Armando Maradona!
Many experts, football critics, former players, current players and football fans regard Diego Armando Maradona Franco as the greatest football player of all time. He was joint FIFA Player of the 20th Century with Pelé.

A playmaker who operated in the classic number 10 position, Maradona is the only player in football history to set the world record transfer fee twice, first when he transferred to Barcelona for a then world record £5m, and second, when he transferred to Napoli for another record fee £6.9m.
In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. Maradona’s exceptional vision, passing, ball control, dribbling skills, speed, reflexes and thinking time was combined with his small size (he was 5’5″, or 1.65m) giving him a low center of gravity which allowed him to be more maneuverable than most other football players; he would often dribble past multiple opposing players on a run. His presence on the pitch would have a great effect on his team’s general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition. A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname “El Pibe de Oro” (“The Golden Boy”), a name that stuck with him throughout his career.

Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. In the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history for two different reasons. The first goal was an unpenalized handling foul, while the second goal followed a 60 m (66 yd) dribble past five England players, voted “The Goal of the Century” by FIFA.com voters in 2002.

Maradona coached UAE club Al Wasl. In 2008, he was appointed as the head coach of the Argentina National Team until 2010 World Cup.
It was a magical evening spent contemplating the green turf and watching the champs weave their magic with their skilled moves. An opportunity to take the lads out and show them what a true champion is like in the flesh. It was really wonderful to meet the legend! He was really most approachable, warm and down to earth! Serendipity seems to be a recurrent companion – this was most unexpected and something that one would never consider a possibility—the nearest one got to this Champ was his poster on my bunk wall when one was in school!
He is the coach of the Fujairah Sports Club and our team is on a winning spree with Maradona being the happiest as the lads continue their winning streak!

Posted in Aliasger Memorial U-14 Inter-school Soccer Tournament, Culture, Diego Armando Maradona, Education, GEMS Education, Himmat Dhillon, Our Own English High School Fujairah | Leave a comment

Of Education, Culture and Human Civilization!


With the 11th Greek Prime Minister.

Greece is the cradle of Western civilization. An ancient nation with a glorious history and a rich culture that has served as the fountainhead as well as ignited many a renaissance including the Roman as well as the Byzantine.

It was on the sidelines of the Global Education & Skills Forum (GESF), often coined ‘the Davos of education’, in Dubai that one found oneself in the enlightening presence of H.E. Mr. George A. Papandreou, 11th Prime Minister of Greece.

As Prime Minister of Greece, George Papandreou has been at the forefront of the global financial crisis and through complex and difficult negotiations, he managed to avoid his country’s bankruptcy, whereas he also applied a series of structural reforms to modernize his country. For this reason he was named as one of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2010 for “making the best of Greece’s worst year.”

It was a pleasure to be in his presence and his sharp intellect was most evident even as he spoke in his soft, gentle tones. He was most easy to converse with, most down to earth and passionate about how to address the challenges of education, equity and employment for all.



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‘Leadership is Action, Not Position’

Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton on Leadership

It was indeed a great honor and a privilege to have been entrusted with the task of accompanying Mr. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, who was speaking with young men and women from GEMS schools on the topic of leadership.

It was with a keen sense of anticipation that I arrived bright and early at The Kempinski to receive JLP. Before too long I found myself being asked a few questions by a most imposing figure with a military bearing and, upon having answered his questions to his satisfaction, found myself embarked upon a journey of discovery.

Tall, patrician and erudite Mr. Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton is a man who wears many hats. He had recently relinquished his role as the Principal
Private Secretary, also known as Chief of Staff, to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. In that role he had not only been the person at the helm of the planning behind the Royal Wedding but also groomed the young princes as well as Catherine as they took upon themselves a public role. A former Etonian, JLP was commissioned as an officer in the Irish Guards and had served with distinction in the Special Air Service.

So here we were gliding on a smooth as silk, state of the art road built upon the golden sands of Dubai to the venue in the back of a stately American car. JLP broke any ice there might have been by waxing eloquent about the meeting between Major-General Wellesley, before he became the Duke of Wellington and Admiral Nelson. This, he informed me with a twinkle in his eye, was their only meeting and that too by mere accident! His rendition of that extraordinary meeting between his country’s two greatest military heroes was most captivating. He said, “It has always been one of my favorite imaginings to have been a fly on the wall on that day and in that place.”
Wellesley walked in full of confidence into the waiting room of the Colonial Office and came upon Nelson who was waiting to meet Lord Castlereagh, Secretary for War and the Colonies. The Duke, then Sir Arthur Wellesley, had just returned from his glorious campaign in India; but his fame had not yet become well-known in England. Nelson was on the verge of leaving for the Battle of Trafalgar. No one knew that this was the last time that Nelson would be in London and the rest, as they say, is history!

Wellesley, the youngest Major General in the British Army, caught Nelson’s eye and Nelson engaged him in conversation! At first Wellesley was unimpressed by Nelson’s ‘vain and silly’ conversation. At one point the topic turned to Sir Robert Calder’s recent action, and Wellesley reportedly remarked “This measure of success won’t do nowadays—for your Lordship has taught the public to expect something more brilliant”. Apparently, this prompted Nelson to leave the room to discover Wellesley’s identity. When Nelson returned with the knowledge of whom he had been conversing with, he seemed a changed man and there followed a sea change in the tenor of their conversation. Wellington is reported to have said upon reflection “The most interesting conversation of my life!”

By all accounts, during their long wait Wellesley saw enough to be satisfied that Nelson ‘really was a superior man’. “It was this very sense of Nelson’s human frailties, combined with his heroic endeavors that made him such a popular hero.” It is ironic that this encounter of the soon-to-be martyred naval hero and his natural successor was occasioned by pure chance. They were both leaders who made their mark on the course of events and yet their way of leadership was poles apart!

JLP emphasized that leadership is not about barking orders as if one is on parade in the manner of an Army Sargent Major. It is about using a low voice – about being soft-spoken. When followers come upon a situation in which an authority figure who usually speaks in a soft and even tone raises their pitch a tad they jump to obey. On the other hand, when leaders who are seen to shout all the time try to emphasize the gravity of a situation, people are so used to this being their ordinary everyday way of being addressed that there is nothing beyond the ordinary in their response!

Good leadership begins with good manners — with being polite. A good leader must not only care but show that they care. Leaders must show it to ones subordinates and possess a genuine humility. Above all anyone who is responsible for others should always be polite and pleasant.

Leadership is about integrity. A good leader must always be conscious of the moral and ethical implications of ones actions. Being a leader involves being highly concerned about old world values like honor, courage, conviction and honesty. Effective leaders they lead by example. They should also look out for the people they are responsible for as it earns them respect and admiration from their followers.

From this enlightening immersion one learned that a leader is not someone who wields power but rather guides others in the right direction whilst motivating and supporting them along the way. It was an interaction to be treasured and one learned about the characteristics of a strong leader, which he suggested included character, communication and courage.

After the presentation when I mentioned how wonderful his sharing was he said, “I’m glad you found my short presentation on leadership of interest too. These things are always so subjective, and one can only really base what one says on personal experience of what seems to work and what doesn’t. What you have heard is really what I have found has helped me over my life, and I hope it may be of some use and purpose for the wonderful students I met today.

One was privileged to learn invaluable tips about leadership and interact with someone who had been entrusted to groom no less than those who stood to inherit the Crown of England and to be the future of the Royal family in the modern world! The takeaway was no less a reward than a King’s ransom and made all the more valuable by the fact that this learning about leadership was from the very best.

Posted in Culture, Education, Himmat Dhillon, Jamie Lowther Pinkerton, London, Our Own English High School Fujairah, UK, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Future

The future is for those who dare to dream and find the courage to pursue their dreams.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

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Our Own Fujairah student honored as one of the toppers in the Arab Reading Challenge!


We all felt blessed and honored as Anat Durgham, a GEMS Education student of Grade J5 E of my school, was honored as one of the toppers of the Arab Reading Challenge.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,  Vice President of the UAE and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, signed the certificate himself for Anat Durgham Abdulhameed an outstanding student from Our  Own English  High  School, Fujairah  who was honored as one of the toppers in the Arab Reading Challenge Project.

 HH Shaikh Mohammad felicitating the winners!

HH Shaikh Mohammad felicitating the winners!

The Arab Reading Challenge Project saw the participation of more than 160,000 students from 828 schools in the UAE.  These students have completed reading 5 million books during the school year.


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Thought for Today!

Live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.

Mahatma Gandhi.

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An Initiative as Unique as each of the Winners!


The other night we got some great news! Our team had been awarded the prestigious Sewa Pioneer Award at a function at Portcullis House, London!

This is the story behind these winners who were felicitated for their contribution to Sewa Day by Barry Gardiner MP, Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, RT Hon Keith Vaz MP, Bob Blackman MP, Gareth Thomas MP, Steve Pound MP and Shailesh Vara MP.

…It was a unique and surprising experience, on a pleasant Saturday morning, for the support staff at Our Own English High School Fujairah when a group of young sparks trained them in the use and the usefulness of digital technology.  The project, named ‘Bridging the Digital Gap’ is one of the unique SEWA programmes to have been selected from around the globe. It is one of the Five School initiatives selected to be honoured with a Sewa Pioneer award at the Portcullis House, London, UK on 24th June, 2015.

Sewa or selfless service is synonymous with the ethics at Our Own Fujairah.  Over the past years the students have worked closely with rehabilitation centres in Sharjah, labour camps in Fujairah, the Emirates Environmental Group, and the Fujairah Municipality to support the greater community and experience the joy of sharing.

‘Bridging the digital gap’ saw  a training camp being organized for the support staff on navigating the wonders of the virtual world the nuances of computer and mobile technology, the latest mobile phone applications, social media and other technological marvels. Each student was assigned one member from the support staff. The initial phase witnessed a 17-member strong student force teaching a myriad of moderate to advanced applications like using Gmail and social sites to form groups, chat & video chat, editing photos on the computers or mobile phones, downloading useful Apps, downloading free songs and YouTube videos, surfing and learning from the net, developing a hobby from the net besides other day-to-day applications. Some of the adults were also given hands-on training on basic and advanced Microsoft Office applications. Such was the impact that a few weeks later most of the support staff went back to their mentors to learn more!

The innovative service concept was born out of the initial brainstorming when Mr. Simon Samuel asked the Principal as to what the team should do for Sewa Day! This brainchild of the Principal, Mr. Himmat Dhillon, in fact, proved to be not only an initiative to bridge the digital divide but served to span the social divide as well. Mr. Dhillon stressed on the importance of the 21st century learners learning to imbibe values of giving and sharing. Two of the young mentors, Kaashvi and Niharika shared their experience stating, “We usually do not get to interact with our Support Staff on a daily basis. It felt great to be appreciated by them but more was the happiness we experienced through sharing and seeing them so empowered.”

The students asserted that what started as an initiative of a Sewa programme is now an integral part of their lives.

Posted in Barry Gardiner MP, Bob Blackman MP, Culture, Education, Gareth Thomas MP, London, Our Own English High School Fujairah, Portcullis House, RT Hon Keith Vaz MP, Rt Hon Sadiq Khan MP, Sewa Day 2014, Sewa Pioneers Award, Steve Pound MP and Shailesh Vara MP., UK | Leave a comment