By Nasreen Abdulla, Khaleej Times
The education community in the UAE mourned the death of Zainab Taher, founder of Arab Unity School, who passed away in Mumbai on Monday, May 2.
An educational pioneer, Mrs. Taher, as she was popularly known among her students and colleagues, initially started the school in her apartment with the aim to provide high quality low-cost British-syllabus education.
Abdul Ghaffar, a student of the 1988 batch from Arab Unity School has fond memories of his strict Principal. “Her presence itself was enough for us to become disciplined,” he said. “She had a commanding personality and no matter how naughty we were, the sight of her would have all of us standing in line.”
“As students, she knew each one of us. She knew who our parents were, what our parents did, who our family was. And not just us, she knew every person in school from the driver to the cleaner. She knew their circumstances. It was like one big caretaker family. Even when it came to sports or cultural events, she was always there monitoring every programme. She came to every rehearsal. She picked the chief guests. She made sure the shows represented the country and the ethos of the school. I think her death is an irreplaceable loss for the school and the student community of Arab Unity School.”
Umme Hani Dalvi who joined as a kindergarten teacher at Arab Unity School in 1993, said. “She was known for her strong and commanding personality,” she said. “Initially I was a little scared of her, but the more I worked with her, I realised that she had a soft heart. She wanted to provide low cost education to everyone and she was determined not to make the school a money-making business.”
“For her the welfare of her students came above everything. She was the mother hen of the school and her students were like her own children. She wanted the best for them and she wanted them to shine in everything they did,” said Dalvi.
“Since I heard the news last night, I have been very sad,” admitted former student Shabana Abdul Razzaq. “I have so many memories of her. She was a disciplinarian and a woman of few words. But she was incredibly proud of us and what we achieved in our lives.
“A few years after I graduated, someone complained about me to her. And she immediately said to the person ‘considering what I have taught her, she will never do something like that’. For my Principal to have that much faith in me was a very humbling experience. She was a strong woman and she used to make the women around her stronger.
I would say, after my father, Mrs. Taher has played the most influential role in making me the woman I am today.”