The Gulf English School (GES) has launched its Week Without Walls programme 2014, which for the first time will include the involvement of every student in the school, from infants up to 18-year-olds.

Head of Secondary at GES, Melvin Jones, said:

We have always had strong participation in our Community Action Service (CAS) initiatives throughout the school but this is the first time we have united the whole school in a Week Without Walls…During this week our pupils have the chance to learn practical skills and to really find out more about themselves, working in teams and as leaders to solve tough challenges. For many, it is the first time they will have painted a wall or sailed a boat. Achieving these successes boosts improves motivation and self-esteem no end. They come back to the school full of confidence and transfer what they have learned back inside the school, and share their experiences with their peers. While it boosts their personal skills, we also see big improvements in their academic work too.’

As part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, the Week Without Walls puts students in dynamic and challenging environments which push them to their limits and encourage them to take the lead, while also working together in groups, thinking critically to overcome problems. The programme focusses on students’ giving back to the community, fostering a sense of cultural sensitivity, responsibility and independence. Students are encouraged to apply what they have learned in the classroom to real-life settings, which boosts their motivation, self-esteem and trust in themselves and others.

Year 12 student Khalid Al Musleh was transportation coordinator for the student group on the trip. He said:

It was the trip of a lifetime. It taught us about what other people don’t have, how we can contribute and what we can practically do to help them. We learned a lot – it was truly a privilege to take part. My experience on this trip helped me become a leader and we all learned things about ourselves which will help us in the future. Above all, we gained responsibility. We were in charge and we made the decisions. There were difficult parts – we had to paint a kitchen. I had never done anything like that before. We made mistakes, but we also learned from them…We didn’t stay in five star hotels – we were in hostels, basic accommodation. We saw how simply other people live. Coming back home, I felt like a king.’

From 27 April for one week, primary pupils at GES will take part in a range of activities in-school and across Doha – from needlework to healthy-living workshops, kayaking, sailing, cookery lessons, environmental trips such as beach clean ups, an overnight camp on a farm outside Doha, where students will learn about Qatar’s culture and history and an adventure holiday to Manchester in the UK. Options for secondary school pupils include international excursions such a trips to Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, an Umrah trip, a cultural/English visit to London, participation in a Model United Nations event and a trekking adventure in Malaysia.

Dareen Al Awfey, also year 12, was the student group leader. She said:

This is an experience we will so rarely have in our lives. I was outside my comfort zone, and outside of my parents’ protection with people I didn’t know. The Malaysia trip was an experience which has helped me to become more independent and to understand myself better. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience…This was my first time leading a group of 20 people. It was very stressful but I learned so much that was practical – from basic things like managing our money to getting us to our location and making sure the group pulled together. At first, we were all working on our own, very unsynched. But by the end we worked hard and as a team.’

The launch of Week Without Walls coincides with the recent return of 20 Year 12 from an 11-day trip to Malaysia, where the students planned and executed every aspect of their trip – being responsible for their budget, logistics, transport, accommodation and communications. The group, led by teachers Graeme Webster and Sarah Williams, trekked and white water rafted in the Cameron Highlands before volunteering at an orphanage for disabled and underprivileged children, repainting the centre and its play area and finding out more about the lives of the children there. The GES students also visited two primary schools and took part in environmental field trips to learn about reforestation.