TUNIS, Tunisia — Where development occurs, political stability follows. Good governance, strong institutions and economic empowerment are needed for successful development. Programs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) provide students with the tools to lead their countries.
One of these programs is AMIDEAST Tunisia, a branch of the U.S. nonprofit whose mission is to be “engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.”
AMIDEAST provides scholarships and assistance, which makes it possible for even the most marginalized students to break barriers into the global economy and bridge gaps between MENA and developed countries.
In 2014, AMIDEAST enrolled 61,000 MENA students in English language and professional skills training classes and helped 1,025 MENA students study in the U.S.
In many cities around the world, English fluency is necessary to acquire jobs in the business sector. However, many students feel disenfranchised by the insurmountable costs of their nation’s universities.
Wael Charafi, a graduate of the Islamic University of Gaza, is one of those students. Charafi hopes to continue his education in journalism and communication at a U.S. or Canadian university.
To qualify for a scholarship, he must be proficient in English. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Charafi laments, “A master’s degree at a local university costs $10,000, which I’ve never had in my whole life.”
As the Economist points out, there is a correlation between wealthy countries and English ability. This is why countries such as Norway and Sweden — whose Gross National Income (GNI) per capita rank at number one and number four in the world, respectively — are also among the top five performers on English language tests.
Conversely, Tunisia ranks 184th for GNI and West Bank and Gaza ranks 201 out of 203 nations represented in the World Bank’s data.
AMIDEAST offers an affordable solution for students in the MENA region. Instead of taking out thousands of dollars in loans to get a master’s degree at a university in Gaza, Wael Charafi has enrolled in AMIDEAST Gaza’s English program for only $1,700.
If he passes this year-long intensive course, he will receive his Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) certificate, which is recognized by universities and employers all across the Anglophone world.
AMIDEAST not only provides MENA students with the tools to break into the global economy but also bridges the gap between MENA and the developed world.
While MENA students have opportunities to study in universities in the U.S. and the U.K., students from those countries can participate in exchange programs in countries such as Jordan and Iraq.
On the London Amman Peace and Conflict Resolution Program, students from the U.S. travel to London and Northern Ireland to study the peace process that occurred there in the 90’s.
They then travel to Amman to compare and apply their studies to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Afterward, students have the option of staying in Jordan and completing an intensive Arabic language course.
Investments in impoverished regions not only help those in the regions but create large returns for U.S. businesses. Following investment development will help lead to stability across the Middle East and North Africa, which is why the United States Agency for International Development funds programs like AMIDEAST.
Furthermore, fostering cross-cultural relationships is important for future leaders of all nations — not just the wealthy ones — to work together to solve the world’s problems.
– Celestina Radogno
Sources: Al-Monitor, AMIDEAST 1, AMIDEAST 2, AMIDEAST 3, The Economist, Foundation for International Education, World Bank 1, World Bank 2