To promote emirate’s inclusive education policy, a programme called Best Buddies brought 35 differently abled children of determination and 15 of their teachers to Dubai’s The Millennium School to foster friendship and promote exchange of ideas between them and the school children.

These children attended classes with the TMS students and also participated in sports, music and other activities. This helped promote inclusion in schools and understand each other. Inclusive practices also reduce bullying and discrimination among children. As part of KHDAs Dubai Inclusive Education Policy Framework which aims at making all schools 100% inclusive by 2020, a guidebook has been released listing all the requirements that a private school has to follow to ensure admission to such students and setting up of an inclusive support team.

Under the Best Buddies program, a buddy pair is created between a mainstream school pupil and a differently abled child of determination. This child then gets to meet and be friends other pupils, their families also gets invited to social gatherings.

Within the Best Buddies programme, a student becomes a ‘peer buddy’ to a child of determination, who can then meet and be friends with other pupils and their families.

“Buddy pairs are created between mainstream school pupils and individuals from various special needs centres in the UAE. This helps the determined ones to be included in parties and other social gatherings. Currently, we have 32 friendships going on between our students and determined ones,” Fernandez said.

Dr Ayesha Saeed Husaini, director at Manzil, said: “Manzil has been working towards educational, vocational and social inclusion since its inception, in line with the vision of the leaders of the UAE. The partnerships with schools like TMS are making this vision a reality. While being a challenging programme, it is also rewarding in many aspects to see children develop bonds that sometimes evolve into beautiful friendships. Due to the consistency of the programme at TMS, the acceptance of differences has increased and barriers have been removed.”