Dr Nuhaila Al-Rawahi has the distinction of being the first Omani educational psychologist practitioner with a doctorate; an extraordinary achievement that she uses to work towards better educational environment for young people of Oman.
The Woman speaks to her on her specific choice of career and the role of educational psychology in a child’s overall development
Dr Nuhaila Al-Rawahi is the first Omani educational psychologist practitioner with a doctorate. A registered freelance educational psychologist, Nuhaila used her personal experience as an inspiration and motivation to pursue a career in the field on educational psychology.
Having completed her Psychology degree at The University of Nottingham in 2005, she returned to Oman and completed a CELTA course at the British Council. She has taught English as a second language, to young people and adults, and volunteered as a kindergarten assistant to gain a range of experience within education.
Nuhaila completed her doctorate in educational, child and community psychology at the University of Exeter at the age of 27 and has worked with various local authorities in the UK before returning to work with young people back in her hometown.
She believes that every child has a right to reach his/her full learning potential and works tirelessly with her colleagues and community to bring about positive changes to lives of young people.
The Woman spoke with this inspiring young doctor on her choice of career, on educational psychology and more …
WHAT INFLUENCED YOU TO CHOOSE THE CAREER PATH YOU HAVE CHOSEN? HOW AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GET INVOLVED WITH YOUNG PEOPLE?
“My career has stemmed from a very personal experience of learning difficulties within my family. The trials and tribulations that my family endured in terms of identifying and understanding the learning needs and accepting the lack of provisions and resources available in the early 90s consequently left my parents making painstaking decisions.
At age 10, my brother left home to go to a boarding school in the UK and not long after his arrival he was diagnosed with dyslexia by an educational psychologist. Appropriate and personalised support was put in place to help him reach his learning potential. I’m happy to share that he now holds a Master’s degree in Business and Tourism from the University of Oxford Brooks and is working in a field he is passionate about.
“My personal experience has been the sole driving factor to me wanting to become an educational psychologist from the age of 12. My passion and beliefs are integral to who I am as a person and a professional. I am first and foremost an advocate for children; I actively put the child/young person and their family at the heart of what I do.
“I am passionate about my work as I believe that every child has a right to an education and a right to reach their learning potential and hence I have linked armswith esteemed colleagues with the aim to furtherserve the young generation in Oman.”
WHAT IS ABOUT THE JOB THAT MAKES IT WORTHWHILE GOING TO WORK EVERY DAY? WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE?
“I worked in the UK until 18 months ago when I returned to Oman.The type of work I was involved in was very different due to the UK’s long-standing systems and frameworks. For example,in the UK I was involved in statutory work and I have also been called in as an expert witness in court. These aspects along with some others are not available to me as part of my day-to-day work and responsibilities in Oman. Although this was something I found very difficult to grapple with upon my return,I quickly have learned to embrace the opportunities it has provided in terms of time and autonomy, both things that were scarce luxuries in England.
“With these luxuries,in the short time I have returned, I have been able to create good relationships with both education and health care professionals, schools, NGOs and parents and have actively sought to understand the context I work in and respond to this deeper and broader understanding. For example,it has led meto speak at a conference in Berlin(September2017) where I present eda theoretical concept to an international audience, which has future research potential.
“Oman’s current and continuous educational growth coupled with my passion and the luxury of time and autonomy is a magical combination. I have no doubt that I will continue to grow professionally and use my skills and knowledge beyond the individual level. This is what makes me get up each morning and put on my EPhat as I truly believe that every child has a right to reach his/her full learning potential.”
DO YOU THINK THAT KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING PSYCHOLOGY IS SOMETHING SCHOOLS SHOULD IMPLEMENT? IN THIS CONTEXT HOW IMPORTANT A ROLE DOES AN EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST PLAY?
Psychology has a place in all facets of life, schools included, and that is from both a holistic view point to an individualized one. As an EP, I work at both these levels as you cannot have one without the other and it’s important to consider the entire system/context of the child where he/she is at the centre. This is what makes us different to other professionals that work with children as we consider the ‘whole child’, for example, when working with a child who may have language delays, we do not only focus on their language, but consider the implications on their social development, cognition and learning and emotional and behavioural development too. This also makes EPs well placed to facilitate multi-disciplinary meetings,which are essential when providing a quality service.
“The role of EPs, on an international level, is in its infancy yet, Omanis already embracing the profession as I recently noticed that the Ministry of Education are now offering a Masters scholarship for educational psychology. I am very excited to have more Omanis colleagues in my field as I firmly believe progressionis a team’s game where collaboration is key.”
HOW DOES ONE EXTEND THE SCOPE TO INCLUDE AND GIVE PARENTS THE REQUIRED KNOWLEDGE AS WELL? WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO PARENTS AND ANYONE DEALING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE?
“Educating parents is integral to what I do, currently I am only able to reach parents on a one-to-one level through my involvement with their child, however, I do not limit myself to clients. As part of my efforts to support individual children and their families, it is important that my EP involvement supports the wider groups and communities in which children belong to through training and coaching. Parents can initiate this request in the same way as schools and nurseries have.
“My advice is, please reachout to me if you have any concerns about your child. If I am not the right professional for your child’s needs, I will help guide and navigate you to other professionals and clinic options. As part of how I work, I empower parents to ask me and other professionals questions about our experience,qualifications, types of assessments and their limitations. These conversations are recurrent in my short time back in Oman and it is apparent to me that explicit links need to be made to the country’s child protection efforts as they fall under the wider umbrella of the safeguarding. After all, parents are children’s primary advocate, but sometimes they just need to be reminded and given permission to actively advocate for theirchild.”
OMAN HAS TAKEN GREAT STRIDES IN WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT AND THE JOURNEY IS JUST BEGINNING. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AS A CATALYST OF THAT CHANGE TOWARDS EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN?
“I see myself being an inspiration and a role model in both my personal and professional endeavours, being resilient and demonstrating grit as well as actively supporting and celebrating other women.”
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL AND CONTINUES TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN HER CAREER, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUNG WOMEN WHO ARE STARTING OUT?
“Take the time to gather information and do your due diligence. Work ethically and provide a quality service. Consider your long-term goals and do not sacrifice them for short-term gains.
“Find someone you admire or has the qualities that you admire and emulate them. Be actively reflective in your work, find a mentor and pay it forward by providing genuine mentorship once you are established and able to do so.”
FINALLY, WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAINTAIN THE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
“As I am self-employed, my work does spill over into the weekends and evenings at times, but I am mindful of my overall well being and pull back and take sometime off before I burnout.”