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Tribune News Network
Learning outside the classroom is key to encouraging students to become more confident, says Abdirahman Handule, a teacher from Qatar Academy Al Wakra. Along with 13 students from Qatar Foundation schools, Handule has just returned from conquering Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.
The cross-collaborative trip between students from Qatar Academy Al Wakra (QAW) and Qatar Academy Doha (QAD), both schools under Qatar Foundation’s (QF’s) Pre-University Education, offered students a life experience unlike any they would learn in the classroom when they set out to conquer Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano in the United Republic of Tanzania, earlier this month. Handule said he was inspired to lead the trip after being part of similar treks in his own life.
“The main goal of the trip was to help our students be more independent, determined, and ambitious, and to get out of their comfort zones. By the end of the trip, so much more had been accomplished – I was astounded at their strength, and they should be proud of such a huge achievement at such a young age,” he said.
To ensure the students were mentally and physically prepared for the challenge, they began training at the beginning of the year. Physical training included High-Intensity Interval Training sessions and a lot of walking – students often committed to 4 am walking sessions on Wakra beach – along with workshops on instilling a positive mindset.
Handule believes the shared experiences made the students, who were aged between 15 and 18 years, come closer as a group, saying: “The team clicked and supported each other from the start, encouraging one another to keep going. If someone got tired or needed a bit of extra motivation, the others were there for them.”
One of the students, 15-year-old Ali Mubarak, is now the youngest Qatari to climb Kilimanjaro. Jassim Al Thani, a student from QAD, felt that they were physically ready, but said the climb was very different to the exercise they’d done to prepare. “There’s always an end in sight when you exercise. When you’re climbing, you think you’ve reached the top, but when you get there it’s another ledge and you have to keep going. Sometimes it was daunting, but by the penultimate stage we were really excited, and it was exhilarating when we reached the summit.”
Kilimanjaro took five days to ascend and two days to descend, with constant climbing from anywhere between four to eight hours a day, depending on terrain and camps. To keep mentally active during down times, the students played chess and cards. They also took great care to respect the mountain, and protect the environment by ensuring there was no waste left behind.
Handule believes the experience will benefit the students greatly not only in their future education and careers, but also in life, opening doors and offering them possibilities they may have been too afraid or uncomfortable to reach for previously. “In the future they can look back and say that if they overcame this challenge, they can overcome anything,” he said.
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