Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education: Fighting the good fight
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Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education: Fighting the good fight

Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education: Fighting the good fight

AGFE philanthropic initiatives address Arab youth unemployment

Arab youth unemployment remains a major challenge across the region. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia, the unemployment rate in the region increased by 1.2 per cent in 2020.

To address the youth unemployment dilemma requires collaboration among all stakeholders and a focus on the full education-to-employment pathway, according to Dr Sonia ben Jaafar, CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE).

AGFE has been cultivating such partnerships between the private sector and educational institutions in the region since its inception. For example, AGFE partnership with Luminus Technical University College (LTUC) managed to graduate Arab youth during the pandemic leading to rewarding job opportunities. Another example is the AGFE Scholars where graduates secured employment at organisations such as Facebook, Microsoft, and UNESCO after taking part in AGFE’s mentorships and internship programs with corporate partners.

“We are all responsible for cultivating an ecosystem where youth are empowered to seek the most appropriate solutions to regional unemployment challenges. That means, we need to do better to engage them in the conversation,” she explains.

“Innovative, technologically-driven upskilling initiatives like the UAE MIT Bootcamp will provide [the youth] with the opportunity to become creative innovators and active contributors to design those solutions,” she adds.

AGFE recently announced an initiative in partnership with MIT for an ‘MIT Bootcamp in Innovation and Entrepreneurship’ organised in the UAE in collaboration with UAE University. A competitive process ended with the selection of 120 bright Emirati and Arab youth for a 10-week ‘learn-by-doing’ programme, guided by a team of international coaches and local experts. The series will conclude with winning projects incubated for six months at UAE University’s Science and Innovation Park and showcased at Expo 2020.

Dr Jaafar: We are all responsible for cultivating an ecosystem where youth are empowered to seek the most appropriate solutions to regional unemployment challenges.

A recent shift in giving that is gaining momentum in the region is the public nature of philanthropy that has traditionally been very muted.

This shift from silent to public giving reflects responsiveness to more complex needs, says Dr Jaafar. “We live in larger more connected communities and the earlier generations of Arab philanthropists like Abdulla Al Ghurair’s “silent” charitable approach cannot have the reach to meet the demands of today’s dispersed beneficiary communities,” Dr Jaafar says.

Dr Jaafar says the current generation of philanthropists, such as Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair’s move towards public strategic philanthropy has galvanised greater support for bigger issues of educational development for the employment of Arab youth. “This approach has resulted in thousands of beneficiaries who are part of the extended community, and partners who help us find more sustainable solutions. For example, the Global Muslim Philanthropy Fund for Children created in 2019 is mobilising resources towards development programs that ensure the well-being of children in Islamic Development Bank member countries,” she adds.

Read: Nine UAE universities join initiative to boost online education

Dr Jaafar says AGFE will continue to pursue regionally relevant education solutions and grow partnerships with like-minded organisations. She gives the example of the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning (UCQOL), a collaboration between the AGFE, the UAE Ministry of Education and nine universities in the country.

“This partnership is an extension of the Foundation’s institutional capacity-building work with partners like MIT and AUB. We anticipate that this model will serve as an example on how to better support system-wide changes that will facilitate pathways from education-to-employment so that the next generation of Arab youth can rise even further and lead the sustainable development of the region,” she says.

Dr Jaafar has over 20 years of experience in supporting and promoting educational initiatives. “I have had the fortune to contribute to educational development in Canada, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with a special focus on educational change policy, assessment and evaluation for better practice, IT for good, and evidence-informed program implementation.”

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