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Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Daily Newspaper published by GPPC Doha, Qatar.
 Joseph Varghese
Joseph Varghese
A journalist with a penchant for reporting events, Joseph Varghese digs deep to unearth facts. With several years of experience, including at Gulf Times, Joseph handles health, science and technology, IT and education in addition to everyday developments.
Cynthia Bolton.rnrn
Qatar
QF initiative to transform learning process in Qatar

A recently launched initiative by Qatar Foundation (QF) to identify and support the needs of bright, young students in Qatar, is set to transform the learning process in a big way in the country. ‘Gifted Enrichment Programmes,’ supported by Johns Hopkins Centre for Talented Youth (CTY) offers online enrichment courses, developed and delivered by CTY instructors to identify gifted learners in Qatar Foundation schools. “Currently 260 students are identified as academically gifted in Qatar Foundation Schools. This is approximately 6% of the total school population for grades K-12. Approximately 75% of identified gifted students in QF Schools are Qataris,” said, Cynthia Bolton, head of Gifted Education, Pre- University Education, Academic Affairs. “Everything starts with identification. We conduct an annual identification process starting at the end of kindergarten to ensure that we locate and support all the gifted children in QF Schools, even those that may not be obvious to teachers. We test approximately 500 students in QF schools annually,” explained, Bolton. She told that the identification process has proven to be very successful with excellent outcomes in identifying underachieving students with undiscovered potential. “A large percentage of our students are identified as gifted in mathematics and general reasoning and 7% of our identified gifted students are considered highly gifted,” she continued. Bolton noted that a gifted child, like all children, needs teachers who understand giftedness and a tailored educational experience that helps them grow in the most optimum way. “For some students this may mean access to an accelerated curriculum; for others it’s the opportunity to dive deeper into a subject and learn at a more in-depth level,” she pointed. According to Bolton, there is a multi-step identification method specifically for Qatar Foundation Schools that looks at classroom behaviours observed by teachers, at home behaviours observed by parents and a test of reasoning ability. “We are looking for students with advanced potential and not necessarily those students who are performing at the highest levels in school. Statistically, 20% of gifted students are under-performing students. If we can identify these students, we can provide the support necessary for them to get the most out of school and turn their under-performance into positive outcomes. If not, the alternative will be a child who is frustrated with school, may act out and disengage,” she remarked. The official also said that PUE is launching an outreach programme to provide gifted education opportunities for all gifted students in Qatar as the concept is relatively new in schools in the region. “It will offer gifted identification testing for students through our talent search, enrichment programmes for identified students and a speaker series for parents and teachers. Our goal is to provide gifted students with a place to learn and engage with like-minded peers and engage in high-interest enrichment opportunities under the guidance of teachers trained to encourage, motivate, and support gifted students,” highlighted Bolton. A pilot programme for grades 3-6 was launched on February 6. “Our enrichment courses for this pilot include human biology, crime scene investigation, genetics, discovering the planet Mars and geometric and spatial reasoning. We are very happy with the engagement from the community with almost 90% of the seats filled. 75% of the students in attendance are from Qatar Foundation Schools while 25% of the students are from other schools within Qatar community,” she disclosed. “We will run a second enrichment programme beginning late June that will include a larger age range, grades 2 – 8 (ages 8 – 14), and more courses. Our community talent search for the summer programme will be in mid-March and mid-May,” added, Bolton.  

Dr Hadi Mohamed Abu Rasheed
Qatar
QCS reaches out to over 140,000 people in 2020

Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) through a variety of programmes reached out to more than 140,000 people during 2020, a QCS official said. "The programmes reached many living with cancer as well as healthcare professionals and others directly as well as through social media platforms,” said Dr Hadi Mohamed Abu Rasheed, head, Professional Development and Scientific Research Department, QCS at a webinar organised by the Ministry of Public Health recently. “As for financial assistance to cancer patients, QCS in collaboration with Hamad Medical Corporation and Sidra Medicine, has assisted 1,300 patients with almost QR20mn,” Dr Abu Rasheed said. The official noted that with agile leadership and the early activation of a management plan and its official transformation, QCS was able to reach the cancer patients and healthcare workers more than what was planned for 2020 despite the pandemic of Covid-19. “We were also able to provide financial assistance without any delay. With the social distancing policies due to the pandemic, we activated our social media platforms and made our awareness and educational programmes virtual and social media friendly and started using interactive programmes such as webinars, podcasts or healthcare challenges at home,” Dr Abu Rasheed said. “We digitally transformed our communication channels and changed our teamwork dynamics to be agile. We even increased the autonomy of the teams and programme leaders. We followed intensive micro skills for ourselves to adapt to the new mode of working,” the official said. According to him, the year 2020 has taught the organisation that agile leadership and digital transformation are essential in increasing the reach and impact of cancer awareness activities for better patient support services. “One of our plans for 2021 is to continue the innovative digital transformation of awareness programmes and measure the effectiveness of those activities in comparison to our traditional methods before the pandemic. We are going to invest more in reaching out to the behavioural modification of the public through social media platforms,” he said. Dr Abu Rasheed also stressed that cancer patients were assisted through various modes. “It is difficult for them to be alone. To make them engaged, we started our WhatsApp broadcast groups in addition to virtual support groups and webinars to provide psychotherapy support. All our programmes focused on supporting and motivating people to have a healthy lifestyle. We sent out the health awareness messages to coincide with the time of the release of the daily Covid-19 statistics as more people are online waiting for daily updates. This made the messages reach a wide range of people,” he said. “During the pandemic, we increased our reach through national networks and digital platforms. A lot people came to support us including academics and we benefited a lot from the collaboration as they shared a lot of knowledge and experience. This was one of the silverlines during the pandemic,” he added.    

Dr Isra Marei
Qatar
QF woman scientist on a mission to improve drug development

A post-doctoral Arab woman associate in pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medicine–Qatar (WCM-Q), a Qatar Foundation partner, is working toward engineering 3D vascular grafts for cardiovascular drug screening. “My research aims to employ human stem cells to ‘engineer’ a 3D vascular graft through tissue engineering, which is an exciting emerging field that combines the use of International Day of Women and Girls in Science is marked Thursday, Feb.11 biomaterials and cells to restore or repair damaged tissues,” said Dr Isra Marei. “The way we are attempting to do this is by inducing cell self-assembly to form a 3D vascular graft. Once that is done, the graft will be used to test the effects of known cardiovascular drugs to validate the system,” continued Dr Marei, one of the three winners in the Post-Doctorate Researchers category awarded by L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Middle East Regional Young Talents Programme 2020 -- an initiative to empower women participation in scientific research by promoting and encouraging exceptional women scientists at different stages of their careers. “This massive discrepancy between drugs that pass pre-clinical testing and those that actually make it to the market can be largely attributed to the lack of effective and predictive preclinical models. The available screening systems do not adequately reflect the human cardiovascular physiology,” noted Dr Marei. There is a serious need for more-predictive 3D human-based models to accelerate the development of potential new drugs. One way to do this, the path Dr Marei has taken, is by making more complex models to mimic the human physiological conditions using human stem cells. Speaking about how she got into this field, Dr Marei said, “My interest in blood stem cells started during my PhD when I used them to populate an artificial tissue made of a polymeric material to be used as a replacement for damaged heart valves. Their sheer potential coupled with the need for better cardiovascular treatments has only increased my fascination with them over time.” Dr Marei also holds the position of Honorary Research Fellow, Vascular Biology Section at Imperial College London, working closely in collaboration with Prof Jane Mitchell, head of Cardiovascular Division, National Heart and Lung Institute. She explained that potential drugs are tested on animals or using 2D cultures before moving to clinical trials. The problem is neither of these pre-clinical models adequately mimic the physiological environment of human blood vessels. Blood vessels are naturally formed of multiple layers of cells, embedded within a gelatinous material. The blood that flows through these vessels results in mechanical forces acting on the vessel wall. None of which is reflected in a 2D culture system that studies the effect of drugs on a single type of cell under isolated conditions. While animal testing does provide a certain level of complexity, there are species differences, particularly genetic and metabolic which means the results obtained from animal models cannot be fully adapted to humans. According to Dr Marei, the use of 3D culture systems will bridge the gap in the current drug testing methods. These systems are anticipated to mimic the physiological conditions in the body much more closely than currently used 2D systems, therefore allowing for a better understanding of diseases and drugs. “Because stem cells can be isolated from the patient, they can also be used to develop personalised drug-testing models making them a potential resource for personalised medicine.” Dr Marei’s first exposure to scientific research was during her undergraduate years, wherein she participated in a project funded by the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). Supported by QNRF’s Qatar Research Leadership Programme, she pursued her postgraduate education at Imperial College London. Her current position is supported by QNRF’s Postdoctoral Research Award.

Dr Soha al-Bayat
Qatar
Age threshold lowered to 50 for Covid-19 vaccination

The age threshold for Covid-19 vaccination has been lowered to 50 for all Qatar residents, a top official at the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced Wednesday. “This will facilitate more people to be vaccinated in the coming days,” said Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of Vaccination, MoPH, during an online live question and answer session. “In addition, people with chronic illnesses as well as frontline workers are eligible for vaccination, irrespective of the age limit. Qataris of all age categories are eligible for vaccination from today. Hopefully soon, the next phase will be announced and non-Qataris also will have a lower age group,” continued Dr al-Bayat. _____________________ Read also: Qatar okays use of Moderna vaccine ______________________ The official also told that Moderna vaccine is expected to be available in Qatar soon. Meanwhile, MoPH Wednesday issued an emergency use authorisation for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine to be approved for use in the country. The vaccine was approved after the Pharmaceutical Control Department at MoPH carried out an extensive review of the vaccine and assessed the results of clinical studies. Dr al-Bayat said that at present Qatar has made agreements for Covid-19 vaccine only with Pfizer and Moderna and if needed, agreements will be made with other companies for more vaccine. She encouraged everyone to register online for vaccination so that more people, especially those in the priority groups can be reached out at the earliest. “The online registration will allow people who meet the requirements of priority groups to request an appointment for vaccination,” noted Dr al-Bayat. She hoped that sufficient number of people will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the country by summer so that herd immunity can be achieved. Dr al-Bayat also said that children -- below the age of 16 for Pfizer vaccine and those aged under 18 for Moderna -- cannot be provided the vaccine as no clinical trials for this group has been completed. “When the approval for this category is given by the drug companies, they will also be provided the vaccine. Pfizer vaccine has two doses with a gap of 21 days while Moderna has a gap of 28 days between the two doses,” she pointed out. As for a question regarding the possibility of getting affected by Covid-19, after taking the first dose of vaccine, she answered in the affirmative. “It is possible that people may get affected by the virus even after taking the first dose of the vaccine. However, it could be very mild. That is the reason why we have to follow all the protective measures even if you take the vaccine,” she highlighted. The official also urged the public to continue the protective methods and strictly follow all the Covid-19 protocols even after taking two doses of vaccine. “It is essential that you follow all the measures such as wearing mask, hand sanitisation as well as social distancing until sufficient number of people are vaccinated so that the spread of virus does not happen,” she added.

Dr Mohamed Salem al-Hassan
Qatar
More clinics open for cancer care across Qatar

*NCCCR plans to expand its services this year   The National Centre for Cancer Care and Research (NCCCR) at Hamad Medical Corporation, has expanded its services by launching a number of new clinics while planning to introduce more services this year, disclosed a top official. “Our aim is to provide cancer care across Qatar. Now we have established 37 extra clinics. We opened more clinics in the NCCCR as well as in Al Wakra, Al Khor and Women’s hospitals. We also plan to introduce more services in 2021,” said Dr Mohamed Salem al-Hassan, medical director, NCCCR. Dr al-Hassan was speaking at a webinar organised by the Ministry of Public Health on the World Cancer Day, marked annually on February 4. “We have started three more clinics: Pain management clinic, palliative care clinic and pharmacy lead clinic. The pharmacy clinic is the first of its kind in the country where a pharmacist sits with a patient explaining the impact as well as the side effects of the drugs. The pain management clinic is especially for the palliative care patients to lead a good quality of life. We also recently launched a psychotherapy clinic to help the patients and the relatives psychologically,” Dr al-Hassan said. The official said that there are more projects to be introduced in 2021. He said, “We are planning to start home visit for patient care. We will start a trial with 10 patients and check the feasibility. This will help all those who cannot come to the hospital and we have created a unit for this.” “We will expand the pharmacy service as we have increased the clinics so that we can cope with the drugs requirements of the patients. There will be further improvement of the survivor programme as well as the patient discharge system,” he said. Dr al-Hassan said that the NCCCR is making use of the Recovery Centre (Bayat Al Diyafa) as the facility needs more space. “Bayat Al Diyafa has 57 beds. This helped us to admit more new patients at the NCCCR and move the stable patients to this facility providing more services for new inpatients. We also made some changes to the existing practices and formed new rules for admitting and discharging patients. Some senior officials take note of the patients and decide on who should be admitted and discharged,” he said. The NCCCR director said that the facility has introduced some of the latest and more advanced technology for treatment. “We have introduced a new technique such as trigeminal neuralgia technique in radiotherapy. This helps in pain management. Adaptive radiotherapy, an advanced solution in treating cancer patients will be installed and commissioned in 2021,” pointed out Dr al-Hassan. According to him, the entire team at the facility worked as a family to help the country during the pandemic of Covid-19. “It was absolutely necessary to continue the services of the NCCCR such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy during the pandemic. We worked to reduce the patient waiting time in the outpatient department as well as people waiting for chemotherapy. It was done with zero cancellation and no delay in any of the appointments for our patients,” said the official. Dr al- Hassan also said that a sub committee was formed to initiate general measures to minimise the risk of infection and protect the patients and the staff. “The facility was renovated. The NCCCR expanded in space capacity as the Day Care Unit capacity was increased from 16 to 52 and urgent care beds were increased from six to 10. Efficient utilisation of the facility as well as improvement of the patient services was executed. We daily see an average of 200 patients in the clinics,” he added.    

Qatar launches Cancer Awareness Calendar for 2021
Qatar
Qatar launches Cancer Awareness Calendar for 2021

The Ministry of Public Health Qatar (MoPH) launched the Cancer Awareness Calendar for 2021 at a special virtual programme to mark the World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day is annually commemorated on February 4 and this year’s theme is 'I am and I will' aiming to raise awareness on cancer, methods of prevention, and the importance of early detection. Launching the cancer awareness calendar, Amid Abu Hmaidan, manager of Qatar National Cancer Registry, MoPH, stated that despite the obstacles related to closures and working from home conditions during the period of the pandemic, the National Cancer Programme was able to complete the final lines of the general cancer governance system in Qatar. “The Cancer Awareness Calendar 2021 is the fruit of the co-operation of various partners including Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) and Qatar Cancer Society (QCS) under the National Cancer Programme at MoPH,” explained Abu Hamaidan. The 2021 Cancer Awareness Calendar also identifies months dedicated to cancer awareness based on evidence-based injury data published by the Qatar National Cancer Registry. It also recognises international days of cancer awareness. This annual calendar will also highlight nationally implemented initiatives. The webinar was organised in partnership with HMC, PHCC, Sidra Medicine and QCS. Sheikh Dr Mohamed bin Hamad al-Thani, director of Public Health department, MoPH; Dr Mohamed Salem Jaber al-Hassan, medical director of the National Centre for Cancer and Research (NCCCR) also attended the event. There was a panel discussion moderated by Dr al-Hareth al-Khater, senior consultant physician and deputy medical director, NCCCR. The panel included Dr Khulood al-Mutawa – head, Non-Communicable Diseases Department, MoPH; Dr Shaikha Abu Shaikha – screening programmes manager, PHCC; Dr Ayman Saleh – division chief, Peadiatric Hematology Oncology, Sidra Medicine; and Dr Hadi Mohamed Abu Rasheed – head, Professional Development and Scientific Research Department, QCS. Sheikh Mohamed said, “World Cancer Day is a unique day that unites people, communities and the world around to raise awareness and implement the required interventions. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted most cancer-related services worldwide. Our commitment for 2021 is that the MoPH will continue its efforts to promote health, raise awareness of cancer prevention and refute and correct misconceptions by continuing to implement various health programmes and projects.” According to Dr al-Hassan, “to effectively deal with this disease and to significantly decrease its impact, the healthcare system in Qatar provides high-quality care, the best possible support, and the best possible patient experience to those diagnosed with cancer. While advances in treatment options such as surgical techniques, screening tests, radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are helping patients live longer preserving their quality of life, prevention and early detection are the keys to improving patient outcomes.” The 2021 Cancer Awareness Calendar was launched through a unique collaboration and partnership between some of the country's leading healthcare institutions working on cancer prevention and treatment. This calendar also reflects the collaborative efforts of health partners towards achieving the National Cancer Framework Vision 2017-2022 and provides an opportunity to unite stakeholders within Qatar to unite their efforts to raise cancer awareness and reduce the burden of cancer on the community in Qatar.  

Dr Zoha al-Bayat
Qatar
Second phase of Covid-19 vaccination to roll out soon

The second phase of Covid-19 vaccination will be announced in a 'week or two', a top official of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said on Wednesday. “The second phase will have more categories added so that more people will be eligible for vaccination,” explained Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at MoPH. She was answering a question if people aged 54 are eligible for vaccination during the weekly question and answer session. “Such categories will soon be eligible for the vaccination. Therefore it is important that all people who are willing to take the vaccine to register online,” she urged. Dr al-Bayat said there was no clear information if the vaccination for Covid-19 will become annual, like the flu vaccine. “As of now, the vaccine available in Qatar is 95% effective against the virus and there are no serious side effects. Other details have to be confirmed later by the competent authorities,” she noted. The MoPH official reiterated that all the Covid-19 protocols and regulatory measures including hotel and home quarantine will continue even for those who have taken two doses of the vaccine. “Until sufficient number of people have taken the vaccine, we have to follow all measures including, social distancing, wearing masks, sanitising the hands as well as other measures,” pointed out al-Bayat. She also encouraged everyone to register online for vaccination even if they do not fit in the present category noting that the criteria changes from time to time. “Those who fit the criteria presently will be contacted. If you don’t fit in the criteria, the details will be recorded and as soon as the next phase with new criteria is announced, those registered and who fit in the new criteria will be contacted,” she added.  

Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal and his wife Dr Alpana Mittal are joined by Qatar's Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol Department director ambassador Ibrahim Yousif Abdullah Fakhro, and Diplomatic Corps dean and Eritrean ambassador Ali Ibrahim Ahmed in cutting a ceremonial cake at the reception Tuesday evening. Pictures: Jayan Orma and Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar
Indian expats mark 72nd Republic Day

The Indian community in Qatar celebrated the 72nd Republic Day of India with patriotic fervour at a special function held Tuesday, adhering to the Covid-19 restrictions. Indian ambassador, Dr Deepak Mittal, hoisted Indian national flag at the embassy premises, followed by the national anthem. The envoy read out the message of the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, during the event. Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal hoisting the national flag at the embassy    Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal and his wife Dr Alpana Mittal join community members in cutting a cake after the flag hoisting at the embassy A cultural programme at the reception   Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal addressing the gathering at the embassy   Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal, his wife Dr Alpana Mittal and other officials join Bangiya Parishad Qatar team in singing the national anthem at the embassy event   Several community leaders including office bearers of apex bodies under Indian embassy were present on the occasion. The number of participants at the event was limited. Dr Mittal also highlighted on the occasion, the efforts of the Indian community in Qatar and praised them for their selfless efforts during the Covid-19 times. “All of you have selflessly come forward to help the community members. Your efforts and assistance helped several of the fellow Indians in times of their need and helplessness. It also ensured that every one of them was provided with the necessary items and assistance including medicines,” pointed out the envoy.   Dr Mittal read out relevant parts of the address of the Indian president which began, “For all of us, this is the day to also pause and ponder over the core values that the constitution propounds. These values – Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity – outlined in the Preamble of our Constitution are sacred to all of us. Its abiding adherence is meant not only for those who are mandated to govern but for the people at large.” “The adversities of the previous year have only reminded us of what we have always known deep in our hearts - that care and concern for humanity and the feeling of fraternity is what kept us together for millennia. In every sphere, Indians rose to the occasion, and put others before themselves. We Indians live and die for humanity,” highlighted the president. “Adversity often plays the role of a great teacher. It makes us stronger and more confident. With that confidence, India has taken great strides in several sectors," stressed the president in his message. The function was followed by a recital of patriotic song by Bangiya Parishad Qatar. At the end of the event ambassador Dr Mittal cut a cake along with the participants to mark the occasion. The event was simultaneously live streamed online on social media handles and on the YouTube Channel of the embassy. In the evening yesterday, at a reception at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, Dr Mittal was joined by Qatar's Minister of Commerce and Industry HE Ali bin Ahmed al-Kuwari in cutting a ceremonial cake. Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Protocol Department director ambassador Ibrahim Yousif Abdullah Fakhro, Diplomatic Corps dean and Eritrean ambassador Ali Ibrahim Ahmed were among the dignitaries. The event also featured cultural performances. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mittal commended the Indian Community in Qatar for their exemplary courage and determination with which they worked on the front lines and contributed to the efforts of Qatar to fight the pandemic. "It is not surprising that many of them were honoured by Qatar on its National Day on December 18, 2020. In this context, I also thank His Highness the Amir of Qatar for including everyone irrespective of their nationality in their national vaccine drive. "Indeed, the Indian Community in Qatar has truly made Qatar their second home. They have been contributing to Qatar’s growth and development in all walks of life. Today, we see Indians in all sectors in Qatar contributing in various capacities as workers, doctors, engineers, businessmen, artists, managers, educators, advisers, lawyers, builders, etc. The entire community celebrates and participates in Qatar’s successes, including the return of Asian Games to Qatar in 2030. "We are proud of the Indian companies and workers who have been participating in the successful and timely delivery of the infrastructure for the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022," the envoy added.

u201cWe are going to launch a virtual services app so that every Indian in Qatar is connected with the embassy and the government and you will get your services at your doorsteps. We are also working to set up a call centre,u201d Dr Mittal told the community gathering
Qatar
Indian embassy to launch app, call centre to reach out to the community

Indian embassy will reach out to every Indian in Qatar through an app for its services as well as a call centre with the support of the apex bodies, ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal announced Tuesday. “We are going to launch a virtual services app so that every Indian in Qatar is connected with the embassy and the government and you will get your services at your doorsteps. We are also working to set up a call centre,” he told a community gathering on the occasion of the 72nd Republic Day of India at a special event at the embassy premises. “Each one of the Indians in Qatar can call and get their grievances registered and addressed at the click of a mouse or through a phone call. With the support of the apex bodies we will take it forward,” continued the envoy. “I assure all the Indian nationals that the embassy is your home and we are at your service 24x7. On this day, we pledge that we will reach out to every Indian national in Qatar using technology as well as physically to extend services to their doorsteps. All the community members are important for the country. With the support of the apex bodies and other community organisations, we will reach out to every Indians and extend the services,” explained, Dr Mittal. He also disclosed that Qatar's Ministry of Public Health has expressed interest in partnering with India for Covid-19 vaccine. “Today I had a call from a Ministry of Public Health official showing interest in partnering with India in terms of vaccine supply between India and Qatar. This is also a proof of strong India-Qatar relationship and how we can work together.” He noted that the recent visit of the Indian external affairs minister was on the commitment of the leadership of both the countries to strengthen the strong relationship between both the countries. “In 2021, we are confident that the relationship between Qatar and India will achieve new landmarks.” The envoy complimented the community members and praised their efforts during the Covid-19 peak times in Qatar and their efforts in ensuring that all the Indians were provided with the essentials during the trying times. “Indians in Qatar have stood up to the morals and principles as highlighted by the President of India in his Republic Day message especially during the difficult times of Covid-19. Each member of the community has come up to help others selflessly and special mention must be made to the apex bodies and other community organisations. These efforts ensured that essential commodities reached the needy including medicines,” he highlighted. “Similarly, there were selfless repatriation efforts during the period for helping the people return to India and reunite with their families. They also reached out to the workers in the labour camps,” he said. As for the regional developments in the recent times, Dr Mittal said that 2021 has brought in a lot new hopes and positive developments. “The developments in the region are very welcome and it is a positive step for the entire region, for Qatar, for India and for Indians in Qatar and the region. India welcomes these developments.” The ambassador also praised the efforts of the Indian medical fraternity in Qatar in their fight against Covid -19 and in containing it. He also complimented the efforts taken by the educators in helping the students in the country continue their education during the pandemic.

QF students highlight shift in learning experience during pandemic
Qatar
QF students highlight shift in learning experience during pandemic

On the International Day Of Education, six students from Qatar Foundation (QF) partner universities have shared their experiences of a new normal in teaching and learning, concerns about future career path and their aspirations. Speaking about the transition to remote learning, Muna Almasri, a Palestinian student of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, said: “With online schooling, studying became a largely independent task. Although it affected our social life, it taught us discipline and productivity through setting routines, which taught us how to prioritise and perform to the best of our ability. “I believe this form of independence is a crucial skill upon entering the workforce, and it is of great benefit to learn it now.” “Although the hospital and clinical visits we were accustomed to for training and assessment purposes have been on pause since the start of the pandemic, they are slowly being reintegrated in a way that still prioritises the safety of students and patients, and this is restoring our confidence,” she continued. ?or?e Popovi?, a Serbian student majoring in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, believes the shift in learning methods has actually positively affected the potential experience. “This shift to a remote setting, where obtaining help is an elongated multi-step process, has actually pushed me to become more independent and resourceful when encountering countless minor challenges that I would usually consult friends or faculty for,” he said. I believe this ability to work independently and efficiently will undoubtedly benefit my work and early career.” “This expectation that technology will play a significant role in shaping our society has only been further affirmed by the events of the past year,” he explained, “and I am even more excited and eager to start practising and applying myself to solving the continuously growing set of problems in computer science.” For Bandar al-Abdulla, a Qatari student majoring in chemical engineering at Texas A&M University at Qatar, the shift in learning during the pandemic has been "draining". He feels, “The lack of human interaction and seeing your peers as names displayed on a screen can be demotivating at times. I also think that our presentation skills might be affected in the online setting; in normal circumstances, presentations would be in front of an audience and you have all eyes on you, with the need to speak effectively and utilise the proper body language and gestures. But because presentations are now online, and facing the crowd is online, it gives a sense of comfort that will not be there during the real deal.” Meanwhile, Sara Lidetoft, a Swedish student who is majoring in international politics at Georgetown University in Qatar, feels that she has missed the classroom experience more than anything. She said, “Although I’m extremely grateful for online tools, which have enabled us to come this far in adapting to the pandemic situation, I feel that the class doesn’t really ‘come alive’ when it’s online. “I also think the pandemic has encouraged us to think creatively about how we work and communicate; it has opened our eyes to new possibilities of connecting online, and I am positive that this will be beneficial to me as I start my career.” Similarly, Arya Mainali, a third-year student majoring in Media Industries and Technology at Northwestern University in Qatar, said: “The shift to an online environment and the fact that education is no longer limited to a physical space is actually quite impressive. There is a lot of room for improvement in the way we do virtual learning, and I am optimistic about a future where learning from a distance will be as fruitful as taking classes in-person.” And Naima Almajdobah, a Jordanian who is studying graphic design at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, believes this year brought her out of her comfort zone and made her a better person. “Never underestimate the amount of patience and self-determination this generation has. We are fighting against a world pandemic, digging deep into the majors we love, working creatively to change and adapt to new ways of learning and, against all odds, aspiring to a bright future,” she added.    

Dr Leslie Pal and Dr Susan Karamanian.rnrnrnrn
Qatar
HBKU academics highlight role of education in eradicating violent extremism

Two academic from Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) have shared their thoughts on how education can help eradicate violent extremism as the International Day of Education is marked January 24. Dr Leslie A Pal, founding dean of the College of Public Policy at HBKU, and Dr Susan L Karamanian, dean of the College of Law at HBKU, explain the role education can play in tackling this issue and in promoting peace and development. According to Dr Pal, violent extremism is the result or effect of a host of factors and to get to the root causes is the way to tackle it. “That takes you to economic and social factors that create the conditions where people will turn to violence. We have tried to understand the economic circumstances that induce extremism, and persistent unemployment is a key one. We have tried to understand the role culture, ideology and misrepresentations of religion play, and so we have focused on populism. We have tried to figure out how people form their images of the world, the kind of news they rely on, especially through social media,” he said. Dr Pal notes that higher education institutions are far removed from the conditions of economic poverty and social distress and they mainly focus on teaching and research, not on solving social problems or on advocacy or activism. “However, higher education institutions still enjoy high levels of trust, precisely because they are somewhat removed from the front lines. Their research mission gives them the capacity to think more deeply about violent extremism and the best ways to tackle it. I think there are opportunities here, especially in working with partners and NGOs, to do a great deal of good over the longer term,” he explained. Dr Pal, who has participated in the ‘Educate to Eradicate’ (E2E) forums at HBKU, says that if E2E is to be effective, it has to be threaded into educational policies, official development assistance (ODA) policies and global co-operation frameworks. He commented, “On the educational front, terrific work is under way on developing tools for students and teachers at all levels. Regarding ODA, we have to deal with the reality that some species of violent extremism are bred in very poor and destitute countries, and so our aid to those countries has to incorporate an E2E component. Finally, violent extremism is confronting us as a global community. The UN and other international agencies know this, and are working hard to better coordinate their efforts.” Meanwhile, Dr Karamanian maintains that education is essential in preventing violent extremism. She says, “Through education, individuals with differing social backgrounds and views of the world come together to better understand societal objectives. A classroom in which content focuses on respect for others and personal responsibility, as well as the development of analytical and problem-solving skills in a global environment, enables each person understand and formulate a view of self that has a benevolent purpose.” According to her, universities typically foster a dynamic environment, one that encourages community members to question and engage in open debate. “Key to achieving this mission is the right of each member to engage in free speech. Yet the right to free speech, when used to promote extremism, could undermine a meaningful sense of security on campus and even lead to violence. In the ideal world, even the most insulting words would cause a listener to question and reject the message, which itself is a learning experience,” she highlighted. Dr Karamanian feels that educators should instill in students the ability to discern fact from fiction and to think critically and independently. “In today’s world, endless messages, readily available on many online sources, have the potential to shape the narrative. Educators need to develop in their students the communication skills, both verbal and written, to be effective advocates. Finally, students must have a strong understanding of history,” she concluded.    

Qatar Foundation launches 'Students of Change' campaignrnrn
Qatar
Qatar Foundation launches 'Students of Change' campaign

A new campaign by Qatar Foundation (QF) aims to reimagine education and provide endless possibilities for learners, researchers and innovators among others by helping them become change-makers. 'Students of Change' campaign will continue for several months, focusing on helping learners become architects of change and envisage an ecosystem of huge opportunities by constantly designing new avenues. The campaign primarily focuses on three distinct groups: Youth of Change, Innovators of Change, and Partners of Change. In the fast emerging global scenario, especially in the aftermath of a severe pandemic that has ravaged the humans so immensely and a disruptor of so many conventional practices in many areas including education, the new campaign is likely to strike a chord with many. The campaign also encourages all those who are passionate about making a change to get involved in the whole process as it highlights, “In our rapidly evolving world, change is the only constant. It’s in our hands to be a part of it and help shape it.” “The need to challenge humanity’s ways of doing things has been several years in the making, and now that change has become inevitable. The question is: what will your role be in this change? Will you be a footnote in history or will you play a role in shaping it? Whatever you are, and whatever you do, you can be a student of change and shape our world for the better,” inspires the campaign. QF, through several visuals and short videos have been sending out the message over its social media platforms for over a week to stir the young minds to ponder over and think differently for a change, it envisages. It invites everyone to be part of the change; be that a student pursuing a degree, a researcher in a laboratory, an aspiring innovator, an artist, a community activist, or just a member of society who wants to play their part. “Our educational offerings are built to disrupt traditional ways of learning, and provide customised and innovative learning opportunities that empower the youth to think beyond the obvious,” runs the campaign. The project also aims to make people innovators of change. “We are triggering transformative change by curating big ideas and turning them into breakthroughs. This happens through our platforms in research and innovation, such as in artificial intelligence and precision medicine, as well as through our community initiatives focused on environmental sustainability and social engagement,” it says. The programme also invites everyone to come together and become partners of change. “When we come together to bring change, our reach and impact can be amplified. The spirit of collaboration is at the core of our organisation, and we are always partnering with organisations and institutions from around the world to facilitate the transfer of ideas and jointly realise them.” Finally, the campaign offers opportunities for young learners to join QF’s schools and universities; helps researchers and innovators to test, become part of its research, development, and innovation ecosystem or those who want to be part of a community that is striving to make a positive impact in the world around, to explore the community development programmes.    

Dr Mohan Thomas
Qatar
Top physician urges people to take Covid jab

Prominent physician Dr Mohan Thomas has encouraged everyone to take the Covid-19 vaccine as it provides freedom for mobility and protection for the community. “We were like caged birds for several months. Today as different vaccines are rolled out to the humanity, we see light at the end of the tunnel. “While 21 days ago I took my first dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the second dose was taken yesterday,” said the long-term practising ENT specialist who is involved in many socio-cultural activities. Dr Thomas complimented the authorities for the excellent arrangements for vaccination in the country.“We were overwhelmed by the excellent arrangements by the Ministry of Public Health for rolling out the vaccination programme; right from sending us messages followed by personal calls, meticulously recording allergy status and contraindications for vaccination and the extreme care given during the procedure. “It is quite magnanimous of the government to provide this facility free of cost to all residents in the country,” he explained. Allaying any fears about the safety of the vaccine given in the country, the physician said: “The Pfizer BioNTech mRNA Covid -19 Vaccine, being administered here is a two shot vaccine taken 21 days apart. The Pfizer vaccine has showed an efficacy of 95% at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infection, starting from seven days after the second dose is administered. “The vaccine contains the active ingredient tozinameran. This intramuscular injection has got the modified mRNA encoding a mutated form of spike protein of Sars Cov-2.”  Highlighting the need for getting the vaccine, Dr Thomas said: “Unlike other vaccinations, which are taken only for the welfare of the recipient, Covid-19 vaccinations aim at protecting our entire community, our family, our friends and anyone we come into contact, by protecting us and breaking chain. “This is not only a personal choice but also a decision for family and friends and an act of social cause.”  According to Dr Thomas, news of the death of 33 vaccinated people in Norway had been a concern but he pointed out that they were reported to be fragile and chronically ill senior citizens. He also felt that the vaccination certificate can become a global mandatory document for any traveller. “With Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive expressing his belief that the Covid-19 vaccination certificate may become the new norm for boarding airplanes or entering countries, the new world travel will proceed with this vaccination certificate as a global mandatory document for any traveller. “This vaccination may also in the future avoid the quarantine for travel, which poses such a big hindrance and threat for contamination with quarantining facilities becoming a hub for the virus spread,” he said. Dr Thomas emphasised that freedom is the oxygen of life.“Freedom to express, freedom to travel and so on but the Covid-19 tied us all to one place with no freedom to see loved ones, to give the last hug to the departed near ones or to attend a historic function in the family. “We missed a lot in the last one year.  “This pandemic has given us many lessons, the most important being joint effort to bring about a change in the world. Let us join together to bring the change, be a part of this movement and bring back our normal lives to our future. Let us do this and let us fly again, free from the binds clung to our wings,” added Dr Thomas.

Guests and organisers at the book launch.
Community
IIS alumna's anthology of English poetry launched

For 19-year-old Sameeha Junaid, a former student of Ideal Indian School (IIS), it is a dream come true. Aspiring to be a writer from the age of 10, Sameeha has come out with a collection of 50 English poems titled ‘One world, One life , One you, Be you’ that takes the readers to her world of dreams and an emotional display of her willpower and determination. Having lost her father a few years back, the book is a tribute to him, who was her inspiration and torchbearer. Currently, an undergraduate pharmacy student, Sameeha graduated from IIS in 2018 and envisages life from a different perspective with her soulful rendering of the world in her   Sameeha Junaid poems. She has a well-matured and controlled attitude towards life as can be seen in one of her poems, “Cuddled up with my soul since birth, my heart pounds as it heals all my wounds,” reflecting on all divergent emotions stacked up in a human being. The book was released at a recent function held at the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) where most of the Indian community leaders as well as IIS officials were present. IIS principal Syed Shoukath Ali and school president Dr Hassan Kunhi released the book along with a large number of Indian Apex body officials and other dignitaries. Outgoing president of ICC, A P Manikantan, ICC president elect P N Baburajan, and ICBF president-elect Ziad Usman were present on the occasion. Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awardee for 2020 and president-elect of Indian Sports Centre Dr Mohan Thomas and the Advisory Board chairman of ICC K M Varghese joined the ceremony online. Sameeha’s book has already attracted readers from various corners of the world for its positive approach and realistic narrations. Being a girl of dreams and explorer of self, Sameeha has been wandering in her poems over the inner landscape of the soul – a rare and insightful experience as a teenager. She is an exponent of creativity and positive thinking and believes the greatest thing we can do in this life is to strengthen people around us. In her poems, the young poetess highlights that the mind has the capacity to overcome anything if we empower it. She excels as a motivator, dreamer and a pioneer of creative feelings. In another poem, she says "you can be anything if you can redeem yourself from the evils of ego and arrogance." Sameeha is also an Instagram blogger. She shares optimistic thoughts, mental health awareness and the value of pain that strengthens the self. She can be reached on Instagram @stalwartgirlcreates. The book published by Kerala-based epublica is available on Amazon.

A wheelchair-bound patient was repatriated recently by Punarjani Qatar.
Community
Punarjani Qatar, a beacon of light for Indian community

* Punarjani Qatar, a philanthropic community organisation affiliated with Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF) has been at the forefront of helping the needy Punarjani Qatar, a philanthropic community organisation affiliated with Indian Community Benevolent Forum (ICBF) has been at the forefront helping the needy and low-income members of Indian community in the country. They have been providing medical, legal and financial assistance and support for the past several years. “We are committed to the service of our community. Our volunteers never spare any efforts in assisting people in difficulties. With a dedicated team of hardworking volunteers, we aim to make every gloomy face happy with new hope, new lease of life. That is Punarjani,” said, Govind, co-ordinator of Punarjani Qatar and the one who is leading the humanitarian efforts of the organisation. “We have been regularly visiting hospitals under Hamad Medical Corporation. We also co-ordinate to provide financial assistance to the needy and low-income people; provide moral support for people in prison and co-ordinate their release from jail. Additionally, we are providing travel assistance for people at the deportation centre with the support of the Indian embassy and Qatar authorities,” he said. Govind noted that Punarjani was the first organisation in Qatar to make arrangements to transfer a critical patient on ventilator to an Indian hospital. “He was accompanied by a medical team consisting of a doctor, a nurse and an assistant. Thereafter, we have repatriated nearly two dozens of patients who were in coma or critically ill and also for people who needed medical assistance at their native place in India. All this could be done with the constant support of Indian embassy, ICBF, HMC and community well-wishers,” explained the official. He also highlighted that Punarjani provides many low-income patients at hospitals, especially those suffering from cancer or fractures with medical equipment, medicines and even financial assistance. He said the organisation has been reporting community issues to the Embassy of India in Qatar and other Qatar authorities directly and through Madad, a Government of India initiative, with constant follow-up until the issues are resolved. According to Govind, Punarjani has also been proactive to help needy people especially those who need legal assistance. He pointed out several instances on how the organisation came to the assistance of Indians who were either trapped by their agents or those who were falsely implicated in legal cases and had to undergo imprisonment. The volunteers of Punarjani also visit labour camps and provide assistance in finding jobs to those who have lost their jobs. Many unemployed were provided food and other necessities and in a specific case, the number exceeded more than 500. “We have assisted in the deportation of the mortal remains of several Indian expatriates with the support of HMC staff and Indian embassy. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Punarjani distributed hundreds of food packages for needy people including other nationalities. We have also arranged free air tickets by chartered flight organised by Punarjani as part of the Vandhe Bharath Mission for needy people who were unable to travel back to India,” he recounted. Moreover, Punarjani organises a blood donation campaign every six months in co-ordination with the HMC Blood Donor Center where 200-300 of its volunteers and well-wishers actively participate. Punarjani is also providing round-the-clock assistance to needy Indian citizens for embassy-related activities and has been extending a helping hand to several people working in unorganised sectors. “In recognition of the humanitarian services, ICBF honoured our fraternity co-ordinator Govind with the prestigious K P Abdul Hameed Memorial Humanitarian Award in October 2020 which is an inspiration to the selfless volunteers of team Punarjani,” added an official of Punarjani.

The panellists at the webinar.
Qatar
Al-Ula summit is beginning of a new phase for GCC: Brookings webinar

Al-Ula Summit is beginning  of a new phase for the GCC as a whole and dialogue must be the way forward, said experts expressing cautious optimism at a webinar yesterday while highlighting the need for legal frame work such as a GCC court to settle regional issues. The webinar, “After the Al-Ula Summit: Prospects for a GCC Rapprochement,” was organised by Brookings Doha Centre. Hesham Alghannam, senior research fellow at the Gulf Research Centre, Cambridge; Ebtesam al-Ketbi, president, Emirates Policy Centre; Majed al-Ansari president, Qatar International Academy for Security Studies and Abdullah al-Shayji, professor of International Relations and US Politics, Kuwait University shared their views on the recent development in GCC as well as the way forward.  The session was moderated by Noah Aboueldahab, fellow at Brookings Doha Centre. Al-Ketbi said the GCC needed a court of its own to solve the issues. “There needs to be confidence building measures and a proper mechanism to settle the issues. European Union has its own court. Similarly, GCC needs a court that can resolve many of the regional issues. Al-Ula is the beginning of a new phase for the GCC,” she noted. Alghannam highlighted that GCC has to go forward resolving all the differences. “GCC is here to stay and everyone wants to maintain it. There was no conflict between the countries but certain differences. It might take some time to heal all the issues and restore trust deficit so that a crisis such as the resolved one, never happens again,” he explained. The panellists also highlighted that bilateral resolutions are necessary to gain the trust of each country and country to country level discussions will help in solving the issues. They noted that such practices will help in preventing any such crisis in the future. “Differences should be resolved through strategic dialogue, which is the only way forward. There must be a proper framework to get them sorted out which will naturally result in more development for everyone,” said Dr al-Ansari. The panellists also highlighted the role played by Kuwait in bringing the rapprochement as well as the mediation efforts of the US. Al-Shayji added: “GCC unity is a necessity and not a luxury. There was lack of communication as well as lack of trust.  As we turn a new page in GCC history, it has to be followed up with measures to build up a stronger bond among all the countries.”

Dr Soha al-Bayat
Qatar
Those infected with Covid-19 have to complete 90 days to get vaccinated: official

* Covid-19 vaccine only for citizens and residents, not visitors People who have been infected with Covid-19 have to complete 90 days to get vaccinated, a senior official of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has said. “People who test positive for Covid-19 have to wait for 90 days from the first day of infection to get vaccinated," Dr Soha al-Bayat, head of vaccination at the MoPH, said during an Instagram question-and-answer session. She also noted that visitors to the country will not be given Covid-19 vaccination as only citizens and residents are eligible for the vaccine in Qatar currently. “As of now, we are giving the vaccine only to the citizens and residents of the country and no visitors will be given the vaccination,” Dr al-Bayat said. According to Dr al-Bayat, the Covid-19 vaccination is not mandatory for travel to Qatar but might be needed for travel to some places as Saudi Arabia has advised people travelling for Umrah to get vaccinated. On the differences between the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, she said: “Qatar has signed agreements for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. We have already started with the Pfizer vaccine while Moderna is expected to arrive in the country within several weeks. The major difference between them is the storage requirement and in the time of the second dose. "The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine is given after 21 days while it is a 28-day gap for the Moderna vaccine.” “So far, there has been no serious side effects of any sort for those who have taken the vaccination," she continued. "All the side effects were very mild and did not last beyond 24 hours. These were mild headache or body temperature or mild tenderness and itching in the injection area." Dr al-Bayat highlighted that there was no issue with the capacity of facilities in the country to treat Covid-19 patients. “Ever since the pandemic started, Qatar has expanded medical facilities all around the country and increased the number of beds and intensive care units. We never reached the full capacity. We have never had any capacity issues from Day 1,” she pointed out. In the first phase of vaccination, one category of people are those who suffer from chronic illness with complications such as renal issues or other major problems. People who are suffering from hypertension or diabetes but are stable may not be included in the first stage of vaccination, she added.

Dr Mohan Thomas.rnrn
Qatar
Prominent Doha physician awarded Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award

Dr Mohan Thomas, a prominent Doha-based physician, has been conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award from Qatar for his noble services in medicine. Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, who delivered the valedictory address on the third and final day of the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations, presented the awards at a virtual event. The event was also attended by Dr S Jaishankar, Indian External Affairs Minister. The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award is the highest honour conferred on a Non-Resident Indian (NRI), Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and organisation or institution established and run by NRIs or PIOs as part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) Convention. Including Dr Thomas, 30 people from different countries have been honoured with the award this year. The ceremony was held virtually due to the Covid-19 scenario and the award comprises a gold medal and a citation. “It is indeed a great honour for me to receive the 16th Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. It is a recognition given by the government of India and and I am thankful to the government for this noble gesture. I pledge to continue working for the welfare of the community as well as to serve the people in all possible ways,” Dr Thomas told Gulf Times. Dr Thomas, who is also the president-elect of the Indian Sports Centre, is a prominent Indian community leader in Qatar and has been active in community services for about four decades. Besides being a renowned otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon, and an alumnus of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, he has been at the forefront of philanthropic activities -- serving hundreds of needy and low-income members of the community in Qatar as well as helping a large number of downtrodden people back in India. An ardent sports lover, he had been a football player in his college days and is presently engaged in promoting sports activities among the community members. He is the founder-president of Birla Public School and a leading entrepreneur in the country. Congratulating him, Sanjiv Arora, former secretary (Consular, Passport & Visa and Overseas Indian Affairs) at the Ministry of External Affairs, India, and a former Indian ambassador in Qatar, told Gulf Times from Delhi: “Dr Thomas is among the stalwarts of the large, vibrant and highly regarded Indian community in Qatar. The award conferred upon him is a tribute to our wonderful community in Qatar. A multifaceted, versatile and popular personality, he has served our community and the lofty cause of the historic India-Qatar friendship with dedication, aplomb and distinction. "As a doctor, community leader, entrepreneur, educationist and philanthropist, he has been at the forefront of many notable initiatives and activities in Qatar and India."