DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — In a turbulent, unstable pocket of the world, citizens of the United Arab Emirates say there is one simple remedy: education. And the UAE has made this conviction a reality through the founding of Dubai Cares.
Established in 2007, Dubai Cares is a philanthropic organization headed by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashin Al Maktoum. Its mission is to improve children’s access to quality primary education not only on its own soil but in all developing countries. By 2015, the organization hopes to guarantee universal primary education and promote gender equality.
According to UNESCO, there are 57 million children of primary school age who do not have the opportunity to attend school and a further 250 million who cannot sufficiently read or write. This is especially pertinent in developing areas. Tariq Al Gurg, standing CEO of Dubai Cares, notes that if the majority of children in developing countries could at least read, global poverty would fall by 12 percent. That is the power of primary education, he says.
Since its establishment, Dubai Cares has successfully reached more than 8 million children in 31 developing nations. Most notable among these countries are Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories and Sudan. Communities have been transformed through the construction of over 1,500 classrooms, the training of over 23,000 teachers, and the distribution of over 2.1 million books written in local languages. Their crusade, however, has just begun.
The organization’s work in the Palestinian Territories has served as a creative and therapeutic outlet for children whose lives have been marked by perpetual violence. Due to persistent conflict in the region, the state and quality of schools is less than adequate. Young girls are particularly afflicted by the regions unrest and lack access to proper schooling as a result.
This is where Dubai Cares has intervened. In collaboration with Right Start, they have provided relief to children through art, drama and other disciplines that channel intellectual energy. They encourage creativity among girls by teaching them how to read and write and by removing ulterior barriers that prevent them from attending school. One such initiative is the Hayya Naqra, a program that heartens parents to read to their children at home.
With organizations like Dubai Cares, the future of developing nations is hopeful. An educated society changes demography. One of the greatest contributing factors to instability and poverty in developing nations is the boom in youth population. The more uneducated, unemployed young men and women, the more upheaval. A U.N. study found that for every 1 percentage point increase in the share of the population aged 15 to 24, the risk of civil war increases by 4 percent.
By making education a primary concern for each nation’s youth, the outcome will not only be reduced poverty but reduced violence. Education is the first and most foremost step toward a more peaceful, more equitable world. Dubai Cares has its wings up and running. By 2015, a non-discriminatory, well-educated Middle East will hopefully be not just a vision but a reality.
– Samantha Scheetz