Female Leader of the Year - Dr. Hibah Shata

MEED Awards 2018 Winner

Dr. Hibah Shata with her daughter, Sara

Founder & Owner
Maharat Learning Center

Maharat Learning Centre supports hundreds of special children in mainstream education

While some entrepreneurs are stirred to action by an idea, a passion, or clever market analysis, others are moved by sheer necessity.

This was the case in 2007, when the daughter of dentist Dr. Hibah Shata, owner and manager of a successful specialist dental clinic in Dubai, was diagnosed with autism at the age of 18 months.

“At that time there were no services for her very young age,” says Dr. Shata, “so I had to make a choice to either travel abroad to find services for her or stay and make a difference.”

She decided to stay, and in 2008 founded the Child Early Intervention Medical Centre in Dubai, the first facility of its kind in the region to provide services to children and young adults with special needs.

But the journey did not end there.

“In 2010, children were ready for schools but schools were not ready for them,” says Dr. Shata, “so I started the Child Learning and Enrichment Medical Centre as an alternative education centre, mimicking the school environment to foster inclusion in mainstream schools.”

Finally, in 2016, in response to the launch of the government’s Dubai Inclusion Strategy, Dr. Shata established the Maharat Learning Centre (MLC).

The facility is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to deliver behavioural, educational and inclusion support services from school readiness skills to tertiary education assistance and vocational coaching.

“We want to make a difference in the lives of our clients, with a view that someday, they will no longer be different but they will rightly be integrated into an inclusive environment. MLC strives to bridge the gap.”

Since its launch, the award-winning organisation has gone from strength to strength and is now supporting hundreds of students in mainstream schools and universities, with growth figures of around 20 per cent a year and over 100 employees across four locations.

One of the biggest problems facing Dr. Shata from the outset, was finding qualified staff in the region. Her solution was to hire people with the right attitude and train them in applied behavioural therapy techniques.

“Our employee journey starts from induction training, our selection criteria is critical and very important,” she says.

Once hired, staff undergo both general and job-specific training followed by competency exams and ongoing evaluation and mentorship. All clinical employees at MLC are registered with the American Board of Behavioral Therapists.

As the mother of three teenagers, Dr. Shata admits that one of the hardest challenges is to maintain a healthy work/life balance, but she prioritises spending quality time with family and also enjoys cooking, music, art and watching good movies.

Reflecting on her experience of building the business, the entrepreneur says: “My Journey is unique because it is full of challenges and it highly impacts our community of families and special children. I am constantly inspired by their achievement and successes.”

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