The speech made by Qatar University President Dr Sheikha Al Misnad at the Dalhousie University’s 2013 Presidential Installation in Canada has created a huge controversy. Coming from a person of her stature, the speech was in bad taste and would only help sully the image of our country.
In her speech, Dr Sheikha expressed pride at how she had kicked out a thousand students within the first year of taking up her position as President of Qatar University. These students were dismissed because of their poor academic performance, especially due to their poor English skills. When Dr Sheikha made the statement, it made the audience laugh hysterically, but the real irony of what she said is that Dr Sheikha herself is not even close to being able to master the English language. The students were kicked out for not being able to do something that she is unable to do. But English language skills cannot in itself be used to measure the eligibility of a student.
One of the most important things that we have learnt from H H Sheikha Moza bint Nasser is that we need to be proud of our language. Last month, at the opening of the World Innovation Summit in Education 2013, Her Highness delivered the most important speech of the event to an audience that came from all different parts of the world. She gave her speech in Arabic. By doing this, Her Highness made it clear that Arabic is in no way inferior to any other language. As an Arab, this made me extremely proud.
The accusations that Dr Sheikha made at the Dalhousie event are highly disingenuous to Qatar’s young adults. Qatar’s youth are a proud generation. We are very thankful for all the opportunities offered to us by an extremely supportive government. We have been raised and taught by the leaders of our nation to believe that we can become future leaders across all sectors of society.
A person has the freedom to express his/her opinion on any subject, but that person has no right to judge and accuse a whole population. According to Dr Sheikha, “The entire national population looks at things as entitlement, not like an opportunity, you need to take advantage of and work hard on it”. This statement is insulting.
It is true that we have been afforded the highest quality of education. The country is investing in each and every Qatari’s education, starting from elementary school to PhD. I don’t think that such strong support exists in any other part of the world. But such an investment would not have been made if our country’s leadership did not trust us to value the opportunities we’ve been given.
Dalal Al-Naimi, Doha