Press Release

Al Jalila Foundation hosts the second annual MENA SEN Conference in partnership with Dubai SEN Network

Al Jalila Foundation, a global philanthropic organisation dedicated to transforming lives through medical education and research, hosted the second MENA SEN Conference in partnership with the Dubai SEN Network. The special education needs conference brought together over 250 counsellors, educators and social workers from the UAE to exchange ideas and best practices on special education needs.  The key objective of the conference was to discuss best practice and identify SEN improvements in the UAE.

The two day conference held at Dubai Healthcare City hosted over 30 experts with a rich understanding of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) across the Middle East.  The workshops, presentations and discussions focused on current issues surrounding mental health and Special Educational Needs in the UAE including behavioural difficulties, dyslexia and anxiety.

The highlight of the conference was a session by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) about initiatives and provisions for students with special education needs and disabilities in Dubai.

Al Jalila Foundation, through the flagship program Ta’alouf, is one of the forerunners in promoting social inclusion in the UAE. Ta’alouf funds educational courses to equip parents with life-changing skills that enable them to better support their children’s individual needs and empower teachers with knowledge and skills to further broaden their understand and practice of inclusive education. Since its launch in 2013, Ta’alouf has graduated 134 teachers and 420 parents.

Dr Abdulkareem Al Olama, Chief Executive Officer of Al Jalila Foundation, said: “The UAE government is making great strides in inclusiveness and our Ta’alouf program is well aligned with the National Strategy to Empower People of Determination. With this second MENA SEN Conference it is clear that this strategy is fully embraced by educators and the discussion and eagerness today to move forward is inspiring. ”

“Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs – and education systems and programmes should be designed to take into account the wide diversity of their individual needs.”

Fatma Belrehif, CEO of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) at Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) said, “Dubai aspires to be a fully inclusive city by 2020 and we believe inclusive education is at the heart of effective education. When we improve the quality of inclusion within our schools we improve education for all. Our aim is to encourage all schools to continue providing a safe, supportive and engaging learning environment for learners with special educational needs and disabilities.”

Dubai SEN Network, established in January 2015, has grown rapidly in a few short years to bring together more than eight hundred special educational needs coordinators, specialist teachers and learning support assistants. Their mission is to offer teachers a support network, and to bring the issue of special needs and inclusive education to the attention of policymakers. The network works closely with experts in their fields, from a range of centres and clinics, to ensure a wealth of connections and services are available across the region.

Rachel Green, Founding Member of Dubai SEN Network, said: “Special education needs are evidently becoming a focal point for policy makers and we are encouraged that our efforts to bring educators together in unity are paying off. The support that teachers receive today encouraging inclusion in classrooms is invaluable. Thanks to organisations like Al Jalila Foundation progress in this area has developed enormously over the past few years and we can see a real transformation in classrooms. We are excited to realise the outcomes from educators’ attendance at the MENA SEN Conference 2017 being put into action.”

Conference delegates had the opportunity to choose from over 20 seminars, 9 workshops. Themes covered during the 2-day programme included behavioural, social and emotional; early years; interventions; learning difficulties and the influence of English as an additional language. The conference inspired the engaging exchange of ideas and insights across a range of curricula.

The school and community exhibition featured more than 19 organisations showcasing best practices in schools as well as specialized services available in the UAE. Among the exhibitors was Enable, Desert Group’s agricultural social enterprise, which provides training opportunities and employment for individuals with special needs. Enable demonstrates the importance of post-secondary opportunities for people with special needs a critical issue as the large youth population transitions into adulthood.

The conference was sponsored by ATIC, kidsFIRST Medical Center and Maudsley Health Abu Dhabi.