Dubai: Around 400 children temporarily living in the UAE due to conflict in their home countries are among 10,000 refugee children who will benefit from a Dh25 million grant by the Dubai-based Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund (REF).
The announcement was made on Tuesday by prominent Emirati businessman and philanthropist Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who established REF in June 2018.
This is second consecutive year that REF will continue to work with the Emirates Red Crescent to finance the school fees of 400 out-of-school children temporarily residing in the UAE after fleeing conflict or disasters in their home countries.
The children, who will now be able to attend grades nine through 12, are mostly from Syria and include children from Yemen, Rashid Mubarak Al Mansouri, deputy secretary-general of local affairs at Emirates Red Crescent told Gulf News on the sidelines of the announcement.
REF’s second funding round will disburse Dh25 million to eight organisations – in the UAE, Jordan and Lebanon – supporting the education of over 10,000 young refugees. Together with the latest announcement on Tuesday, REF has in total spent Dh74 million supporting the education of over 17,000 youth in UAE, Jordan and Lebanon since June 2018.
REF has a total budget of Dh100 million, which was earmarked for the three-year period from 2018 through 2020.
On the sidelines of Tuesday’s announcement, Al Ghurair told Gulf News it is possible the initiative will continue beyond its original mandate.
“We will finish our fund of these three years. And at the end of these three years, we’ll look at it, evaluate it, and we may start another fund for placing the refugees to school. So, it’s under consideration,” Al Ghurair said.
The second funding round focuses on supporting the eight organisations in providing secondary education and vocational training for skills that are “relevant to the economy and meet labour market demands”.
When asked about the possible focus of the third round, Al Ghurair said: “We continue to learn what is the need on the ground. So we’ll keep tweaking our programmes according to the need on the ground.
“For example, our success story of giving vocational education, college education to students has proved very successful; therefore 75 per cent of our students get job offers before they graduate – this is phenomenal. [Regular] students in Jordan, Lebanon can graduate and it can be two years before they get a job.
“But will digital technology, Artificial Intelligence be there in the next round? Programmes will change and we’ll also look at what’s needed in the market”.
He added: “We’ll also continue to add innovative partners who can deliver education more effectively and with less expense and greater results.”
In round one, in 2018, REF awarded Dh49 million in direct funding to educational and humanitarian organisations to enable 6,788 refugee students to attend secondary school, vocational education, and university.
Tuesday’s announcement included a panel discussion by the grantees, which was moderated by Mohammed Almezel, Managing Editor, Gulf News.
Almezel asked panelists how refugee children can be kept from dropping out of school. Almezel said it was “vital” that such children enrolled in primary school continue to secondary or vocational education.
Don McPhee, Lebanon Country Director, War Child Holland, said it is inevitable that some refugee children, because of their circumstances, will end up working to provide “income and stability” for their families.
“We can bring the kids to the classroom but what we find, and what we think is important, is you have to go to the youth and children themselves. Some of them are working, despite our efforts that they stay in school. You have to recognise they are working and you have to go where they are working, and you have to go in the hours where they are.”
■ The United Nations Refugee Agency and Relief International in Jordan
■ Unite Lebanon Youth Project, Beit Atfal Assumoud, Alfanar, Digital Opportunity Trust and War Child Holland