The power to make a difference
The year 2018 is just getting better, says Jane Jaffer, who has been awarded the MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth II. “I got a call from the embassy and when they told me about it, I nearly fell off my chair,” says Jane, who thought she was being called to the British Embassy to work on a special project.
“It was a surprise and a great honour. It’s very nice to see that Her Majesty the Queen honours ordinary people like me for their contribution towards education.”
Jane points out that apart from celebrities, the Queen’s list of honourees includes many common people who have made contributions in their fields.
“I really feel like I am collecting the award on behalf of so many people and organisations that have supported me over the years - the volunteers, the sponsors and the Dar Al Atta’a foundation among others,” says an elated Jane.
Jane is extensively known for her contribution to the field of education in Oman. Although she never perceived receiving recognition of such a magnitude, Jane did believe in the “power of an individual to make a difference”.
And that is precisely the reason why she has always emphasised on the importance of inculcating a love for reading among children - to help with their overall personality development. “It’s always about working with a purpose to have a positive impact on people.”
With the MBE honour, Jane feels a new sense of responsibility towards society. “When you’ve been given such an honour, you got to live up to it. It’s highly motivating and it makes me go back with a renewed energy and vision to do better and more.” Jane has been an integral part of Oman’s education narrative ever since she came to live in the sultanate 38 years ago.
Her passion for education and reading were never limited to classrooms. In 2007, under the auspices of Dar Al Atta’a, Jane founded the Let’s Read Programme to promote the love of reading to children in Oman.
Later in 2013, she extended her reach by introducing Oman’s first mobile library, Maktabati. The mobile library visits schools and festivals held across the country, providing children with access to good books and an opportunity to develop a love for reading. They now have two buses in action with three Omani male staff, and distribute around 11,000 books to children each year. “Maktabati, Oman’s first mobile library programme, and the Let’s Read Charity Book Shop, both evolved because I saw a great need to provide children across Oman with access to good books at reasonable prices,” says Jane.
Apart from this, she also published four collections of children’s stories from the Let’s Read Children’s Writing Competition - Tales with a Twist, Stories from Oman, My Home Town and Stories of Our Ancestors.
She has also authored two children’s books, Dana and the Dolphin and Sariya and the Turtles, because she felt it was important for children to have the opportunity to read stories set in Oman.
“Reading stories which they can relate to and which are within their own experience, hopefully motivate them to read more,” says Jane.