UAE philanthropist unveils $27.2m education fund for refugee youth

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair aims to provide 5,000 young refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE with access to education

Young refugees struggling to gain an education are to benefit from a major regional fund that aims to open up school and vocational opportunities to at least 5,000 children and youth.

Emirati businessman Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said Wednesday he will invest AED100m ($27.2m) over three years to provide refugee youth in Jordan and Lebanon, and other Arab countries with access to educational programmes.

The fund, which is the largest of its kind in the Arab region, will cover secondary, vocational and tertiary levels, awarding grants to NGOs and educational institutes that work with refugee teens and youth.

The money will also be used to support children of displaced families currently residing in the UAE, who are unable to pay school fees. 

Al Ghurair, who is also chairman of the $1.1bn Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, said philanthropists have a role to play in tackling one of the region’s most acute challenges.

“Young people whose education has been interrupted by conflict deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and have a shot at a good future,” he said in a statement timed to coincide with World Refugee Day.

Grants will be awarded to partner organisations in Lebanon, Jordan and the UAE before the start of the new school year in September, with proposals for the next funding round invited in early 2019. 

Commenting on the announcement, United Nations education envoy Gordon Brown said he hoped to see other business leaders take action to help fund education for refugee youth.

“There can be no better investment in the future of the Arab region than to support the education of the most vulnerable,” he said. 

Globally, less than 2 per cent of donor support goes to education in emergencies. Of that, vastly more funding is spent on primary education than secondary or vocational education.

Just 23 per cent of refugee adolescents globally are enrolled in secondary school, compared to 84 per cent globally.

In tertiary education, enrolment rates among refugees stand at just 1 per cent.

The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF estimates that the Syrian conflict alone has left 2 million children out of school and thousands more youth unable to continue their education.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grande said both individuals and organisations must join together to ensure refugees can build a future.

“The fund highlights the importance of the Arab world’s business community in creating a positive impact through supporting the region’s displaced communities,” he said.