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Story | Education
1 July 2021

How the pandemic gave QAS graduates confidence for the future

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QF students discuss school years, opportunities, challenges, and future goals

After years of hard work, the students of Qatar Academy Sidra are all set to begin the next chapter of their academic journey. And while there were times when they thought they would flounder, facing unexpected challenges brought on by COVID-19, they learned how to confront the unknown, strengthen their resilience, and pursue innovation – skills that will accompany them for the rest of their lives and help them to enact positive change in Qatar and beyond.

Just a few months before the COVID-19 outbreak – and remote learning became the norm – Reem Al Mannai joined Qatar Academy Sidra (QAS), a school which falls under the umbrella of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education.

“The transition to online learning after just a few short months of joining QAS in 2019 shook the ground beneath my feet, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.

“It was a big transition for both teachers and students alike. Yet, with all the challenges we faced, what was exceptional is how we all adapted to the situation. The resilience displayed by our teachers, and their collective team work and support, reminded us to keep our heads up and be optimistic no matter what the situation was. And that helped us get through it all.”

Through my experience as a Wellness Ambassador, where I was able to make a difference within the school’s community, I learned about the importance of discussing sensitive topics and being open to address them

Reem Al Mannai
Reem Al Mannai

Al-Mannai gained many experiences through the activities and programs she participated in during her time at QAS. She was part of the pilot group for the Wellness Ambassador Program, which saw students train to become advocates within their schools to help other young people overcome mental health issues.

“Through my experience as a Wellness Ambassador, where I was able to make a difference within the school’s community, I learned about the importance of discussing sensitive topics and being open to address them, as there were many students who needed support from teachers but were afraid to ask for help because of the stigma surrounding mental health,” said Al-Mannai.

“Another experience I hold close to my heart was participating in THIMUN Qatar 2020 as part of the administration team. I am someone who enjoys working with people, and by diving into the world of THIMUN I was able to learn the value of self-management and organization, which are crucial skills for the smooth execution of such a huge event.”

Omar Iqbal, another QAS student who graduated this year, also spoke about his learning experience and the opportunities he had at QAS.

“The classes at QAS consist of a small number of students, which was hugely beneficial as our teachers could help us each individually. And that helped me understand concepts much more easily.”

Speaking about how QAS afforded him the opportunities to pursue his passion for football, he said: “In Grade 11, three of my classmates and I created a football tournament for the students at QAS, with the sole purpose of bringing the student community together.

In Grade 11, three of my classmates and I created a football tournament for the students at QAS, with the sole purpose of bringing the student community together

Omar Iqbal
Omar Iqbal

“This project helped me improve my time management skills as intense planning was required in order to balance both my studies and playing football. I believe that this skill will be important at university, especially with regards to my mental health,” said Iqbal.

QAS graduate Jood Ikram Sheikh also spoke about the time management and teamwork skills she gained during her time at the school.

“One project that helped me hone my leadership and collaboration skills was the ‘Walk Towards Change’ that the QAS Student Council organized in Oxygen Park before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020,

“Designed to raise awareness about climate change, there were approximately 180 people in attendance including students, teachers, parents and representatives from several local environmental organizations. The event required weeks of preparation, communicating with people from different sectors, and – most importantly – teamwork, trust, and dependability,” said Sheikh.

“And it was through this event I learned that true governance lies not in the glory chasing of a single person, but in the willingness to create space for others.

It was through this event I learned that true governance lies not in the glory chasing of a single person, but in the willingness to create space for others

Jood Ikram Sheikh
Jood Ikram Sheikh

Sheikh has always taken pride in being an independent student, however, she had moments of doubt when the pandemic hit. “There were times when I found myself needing the support of my teachers to recalibrate, and become more motivated. One of my teachers helped me understand that progression is more important than perfection, and that my self-worth should not be solely determined by my academic performance. He also helped me understand how important it is to be honest and ask for help when needed.”

Speaking of the most prominent factors that formed her strengths and greatly impacted the quality of her university applications, Sheikh said: “When I reflect on my time at QAS, I realize how blessed I was to have such connections and opportunities that enriched my experiences and constantly challenged my potential.”

“All of the projects I wanted to implement within or beyond school were met with unconditional support from QAS. My teachers genuinely cared about my academic performance and overall well-being, and since the class size was small, I was guaranteed one-on-one help as often as I needed it, And this is a privilege that distinguishes QAS from other institutions.”

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