SEATTLE — Improvements in education are imperative to facilitate global growth and development in areas such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The World Bank’s mission statement recognizes education as a “powerful driver of development and one of the strongest instruments for reducing poverty and improving health.” In recent years, the World Bank has turned its focus to developing education in MENA countries and to benefit refugees and others affected by conflict in the area.
In September of 2016, at the height of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, the World Bank launched its $224 million Support to Reaching All Children with Education Program that went towards education in Syria and Lebanon. Since this was announced, the World Bank and the Lebanon Ministry of Education have teamed up to provide textbooks, supplies, furniture and other necessities to accommodate both Lebanese students and displaced Syrian refugee children.
World Bank’s Practice Manager for Education, Safaa El Tayeb El-Kogali, explained the importance of education in bringing stability to the lives of refugee children. “The impact of war and displacement is very hard on all those involved, especially on children as it is harder for them to process what is happening around them,” said El-Kogali. “Schools offer a sense of normalcy, a safe haven from the chaos and, above all, an opportunity to learn.”
The World Bank has also launched a broader campaign to develop education in MENA countries through their Education for Competitiveness program (E4C). This initiative focuses on early education to boost literacy and numeracy across the Arab region where nearly 70 million people are illiterate. In building a foundation for basic skills through education, the World Bank hopes to cut down on youth unemployment and deliver guidance for career opportunities.
Outside of early childhood initiatives, the E4C program also highlights students’ school-to-work transition and provides secondary and tertiary scholars with regional internship programs, training and counseling to get students on the path to success
One of the World Bank’s key tools to improving standards of living and education in MENA countries is the MENA University Governance Score Card Project. This project manages the World Bank’s network of 150 learning institutions from eight countries in the region and gathers data on the effectiveness of higher education in the region. Though the area has suffered from notoriously high unemployment levels for graduates of higher education, the MENA Score Card Project aims to improve this by revealing the effectiveness of different institutions and helping universities measure their progress.
The World Bank’s network provides open communication between institutions and government agencies and heads the effort to revolutionize education throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
– Nicholas Dugan