What is the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund?
Education offers the best chance for refugee youth to both improve their own lives and improve wellbeing across their communities. The unfortunate reality is that continued education is an inaccessible luxury for most. We risk losing an entire generation of young people to futures crippled by poor access to learning opportunities.
With this knowledge, in 2018, H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Emirati businessman and philanthropist created a 120 million AED (32.6M USD) fund to support 20,000 refugees and vulnerable youth to access secondary, vocational and tertiary education. The Fund, awarded over three years, supports high impact education programs in Jordan and Lebanon. In the UAE, the Fund benefits Arab children of families, who due to wars and disasters temporarily reside in the UAE.
H.E. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair’s decision to support refugee education is based on the alarming statistics showing the increasing gaps and challenges facing these young people. Almost 3 million Syrian refugees have sought refuge in Jordan and Lebanon, in addition to the almost 2.2 million (in Jordan) and 450,000 (in Lebanon) Palestinian refugees who have been living there for decades (UNRWA 2019). More than half of Syrian refugees are children and youth. Completion of secondary education by refugees (1.4% in Lebanon, 4.8% in Jordan) (Pathways to and Beyond Education for Refugee Youth in Jordan and Lebanon AGFE) has remained extremely low since the beginning of the conflict. In both Lebanon and Jordan, almost 45% of the 657,000 school aged refugees are out of school (UNHCR 2020) with the vast majority of these being at the secondary school level (KIdsRights 2018). The enrolment rate of Syrian refugees in post-secondary education is also extremely low; 1.6% in vocational education and under 5% in tertiary education (Pathways to and Beyond Education for Refugee Youth in Jordan and Lebanon AGFE).
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund is administered by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE). The fund awards grants based on a competitive selection process to organisations working directly with refugee and conflict-affected children and youth in the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Jordan. The fund has taken an impact-driven approach, and values a partnership model, working closely to build capacities of partners based on emerging needs from the ground.
Almost 45% of the 657,000 school aged refugees are out of school (UNHCR 2020) with the vast majority being at the secondary school level (KidsRights 2018). Whereby under 5% of Syrian refugees completed secondary education (UNHCR 2018). The enrollment rate of Syrian refugees in vocational education in both countries is even lower at 1.6%, and the percentage accessing tertiary education is under 5% in both countries.
The Fund is administered by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education. Grants are provided to support education programs at the secondary, vocational and tertiary levels of education that address an acute education gap and are impact-driven and scalable. It is important to address these challenges because education is a vital component in the life of a refugee.
It creates a safe environment amidst the disruption, provides livelihood opportunities, equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to plan their pathways and in the process enables them to positively contribute to their hosting country. While the need for educational support for refugees is critical at all levels of education, research shows that in times of crisis, secondary, vocational and tertiary education levels tend to get most overlooked.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund practices an outcome-focused philanthropic approach and values a partnership model. It ensures all projects are impact driven and further focuses on the importance of data collection and evaluation to continuously explore solutions and address challenges in an agile manner. Professional accountability embedded in authentic partnerships has helped us make sure that we keep our focus on the needs of the most vulnerable. We listen, learn and collaborate with our partners and our partners listen and are open with us. Our partnership is built on trust, transparency and shared values.
The first round of grants to partner organizations in Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates started implementation in September 2018. In its second round, the Fund received over 65 proposals and 8 were selected. They were announced by His Excellency in an event in the UAE in September 2019.
Our Areas of Focus
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund supports high-impact education programs at the secondary, vocational and tertiary levels of education for refugee youth in Jordan and Lebanon. The grants provided by the fund will also support children of families who due to wars and disasters in their home countries, temporarily reside in the UAE. The Fund supports Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as host community vulnerable youth between the ages of 12 and 30.
Secondary Education Stream
Focusing on secondary school refugee and vulnerable students as well as those at higher risk of dropping out in returning to schools to re-integrate into formal education. Working with the students from Grades 8 to 12 to remain in and complete their formal education.
Vocational Education Stream
Providing refugee and vulnerable youth access to certified vocational courses that are in market-driven specializations. Followed by internships, or apprenticeships, employment placements, language skills and work-readiness skills.
Tertiary Education Stream
Providing refugee and vulnerable youth access to tertiary technical degrees or diplomas (including online or blended) that lead to employment pathways. Priority is given to low cost technical degrees that are coupled with career counselling, internships, or apprenticeships, employment placements, language skills and work-readiness skills.
The refugee crisis is one of the most acute challenges of our time. In the Arab world, over 10 million people have been living away from their homes for years or decades, and approximately 50% of them are children and youth. These are young people who were forced to discontinue their education (UNICEF, 2020) and who deserve a chance at a better future.
The culture of giving is a living legacy of the founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, that has been fostered by our nation’s visionary leadership and philanthropic work. Inspired by their example and the belief that, by their nature private philanthropists should be able to have a larger more strategic impact when they help, I established the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund in 2018. The Fund supports high-impact education programs at the secondary, vocational, and tertiary levels of education for refugee youth in Jordan and Lebanon. The Fund also supports Arab children of families who, due to wars and disasters, temporarily reside in the UAE, but are unable to afford school fees. I established the Fund to formalize my commitment to help as many refugee youth as I can to access and successfully complete their education so that they may begin working towards a better future for themselves, their communities and our region.
We are currently in the third year of the Fund. I am pleased to share that our strategic collaborative approach with ten key partners has resulted in supporting over 17,500 children and youth to date. We have also learned many lessons along the way; through partnership and collaboration, we can have a much bigger and better impact. Together, we have been able to support innovative educational programs that respond to the needs on the ground. We provide these resilient young individuals with meaningful educational pathways to improved livelihoods.
It is with education that young people can develop their mind, their character, and a hopeful perspective to become productive and self-reliant members of their communities. And we, as philanthropists and educators, must empower them to find their own pathways to elevated livelihoods. When I think of this important work, I think of the youth that deserve a chance at a better life. Our scholars like Mounir Al Serwan, a Syrian undergraduate student at the American University of Science and Technology in Beirut, embody this spirit, stating “We as people need to be educated to survive, to be better and to give back to society. For me, learning and breathing go hand in hand because without access to education I wouldn’t be the person I am today and be able to give back to society.”
Now, with the Covid-19 pandemic further challenging refugees living in overcrowded camps, informal tent settlements and congested host communities where access to online education is out of reach, we need to work harder and better to find solutions. These youth deserve to continue their education and look towards a more hopeful future.
“It is with education that young people can develop their mind, their character, and a hopeful perspective to become productive and self-reliant members of their communities. And we, as philanthropists and educators, must empower them to find their own pathways to elevated livelihoods”