RDS_181120 Orphan fund
Zeina Mousbah Moughrabi with children at the Giggles English Nursery Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Four children with difficult economic circumstances will get a chance to receive early-years education for free, thanks to one school leader’s new initiative in Abu Dhabi.

Zeina Musbah Moughrabi, early childhood education specialist and head principal of Giggles English Nurseries in Abu Dhabi, noticed how some people she knew, who lost a parent or both parents at a young age, were unable to pursue their education because of financial constraints.

“These are people who are dear to my heart. As children, when they wanted to get educated, they could not find someone who would give them an opportunity,” Zeina told Gulf News.

“Every child deserves an education and if financial constraints are the main reason stopping them from getting it, we want to help,” she added.

The UAE already has several initiatives for orphans, with many more being launched during the Year of Zayed. Education has been a big focus in the new projects that were launched. However, Zeina noted that most efforts were related to public schools.

“I know there are charities and organisations that really help and support children, but it often comes under public schools. We wanted to encourage the private sector to do the same,” she said.

The fund, she hoped, would encourage other early years centres and schools to do the same. The children will be selected by a committee of teachers and management staff and will join classes from November 2018. Parents or guardians of children who are two or three years old can apply for the fund and will receive nursery education till age four. Zeina hoped that the fund would inspire other private schools to create similar initiatives that would enable those children to continue studying.

“Next year, we plan to do the same. As long as we can afford to do it, we would like to do so.”

Classrooms that are inclusive, especially in terms of the socio-economic status of children, can have a lasting impact on the pupils, well into their adulthood. India, for example, mandated that private schools keep a quarter of their seats reserved for children from disadvantaged families. The schools would then be compensated by the government, as part of the country’s right to education laws.

Development and behavioural economist Gautam Rao studied the impact this policy had on schools in New Delhi and discovered that the integration was having a dual impact. Not only did it help children from challenged backgrounds receive quality education, it also helped children from more privileged backgrounds. In the study, published in May 2018, he concluded that the policy made these children “more prosocial, generous and egalitarian, less likely to discriminate against poor students and more willing to socialise with them”.

Zeina hoped that her initiative would have a similar impact on children in the UAE.

“The children who are paying fees are part of the project as well. It is because they paid their fees that we can think of sponsoring other children. I think this will affect them positively, as they will see that they are part of the project. For the children who come in through the fund, I hope this will enable them to give back to the community. Only when they are given will they be able to give.”

Single parents or guardians of children who have lost both their parents can submit applications for the education fund by emailing zeina@gigglesenglishnursery.com.