Drawing In Dubai

What if the world had a star-studded global competition, with a one million dollar prize, and I told you it was all about teachers? You would say I’m crazy. Our world pays lip service to teachers; we love them but we don’t give them accolades they deserve, let alone financial reward. But there is such a prize, and it is held in Dubai, UAE every year. This year, I was fortunate to be there to live draw the whole thing.

My journey began aboard the Emirates Airline, where the female flight attendants have great outfits.

Arriving in Dubai, I took a taxi, driven by a fierce woman driver in a hot pink scarf.

I spent two days observing the preparations for the conference. Called the Global Education and Skills Forum, with the prize element called the Global Teacher Prize (funded by The Varkey Foundation), the conference this year had 4,000 attendees from around the world. The speakers included educational and economic experts, politicians, actors, sports leaders, comedians, entertainers, teachers, start-up digital education companies and more.

The events began with a very powerful speaker, Mohamed Sidibay, a young man from Sierre Leone, who had raised himself up from a child soldier to a peace activist, with the help of teachers. He was incredibly inspiring.

I drew people lounging and talking:

There were stars from sport, film, literature and politics:

Three students from the Parkland, Florida shooting were on a panel to facilitate conversation about how to understand the issues of gun control in the United States.

Over the course of the conference, we got to meet the inspiring ten finalists for the #TeacherPrize:

We saw Master Classes conducted by all of the ten finalist teachers. Here is Glenn Lee, the sole finalist from the United States.

The winner was announced the last evening, hosted by The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah.

Jennifer Hudson sang for the audience.

And finally, the winner was revealed. The lucky winner of the $1 million dollar prize was Andria Zafarakou, an art teacher from the Alperton Community School in Brent,West London, a very poor district. In her acceptance remarks, Ms. Zafarakou said,

“At the end of the day, it’s all about the kids and giving them the opportunities to find the best of themselves,” says Andria. “Anything is possible.”(Daily Mail)

And to cap it all off, a selfie was taken on stage by Trevor Noah, with many of the guests and the entire audience:

It was an inspiring few days honoring the teaching profession, and trying to understand how to improve education challenges around the globe.

After it was over, I spent a day exloring the region, which was sorely too little. I hope to return and draw more, and perhaps witness another teacher win the prize of best teacher in the world. It is a wonderful thing, and a symbolic gesture that underscores the importance of teachers in the world. They can indeed change one person’s life, who perhaps then can change the world.



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