Abdullah Ahmad Al Ghurair Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The newly formed Abdullah Al Ghurair Education foundation will begin its operations in the first quarter of 2016.

The foundation will focus in its first phase on helping underprivileged UAE nationals get access to the education they need to fulfil their promise as the future leaders of the region, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq and chairman of the Foundation’s board of trustees, told Gulf News.

In a major announcement on Tuesday, Abdullah Ahmad Al Ghurair donated a third of his assets to an education foundation which he launched to improve the quality of education and help thousands of promising Arab youth from underprivileged backgrounds have access to a bright future. The leading Emirati is the father of Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair.

Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who made the announcement on behalf of his father, confirmed that the foundation will initially aim to spend Dh4.2 billion ($1.1 billion) over the next 10 years on educating 15,000 underprivileged Emirati and Arab youths.

Speaking to Gulf News on Wednesday about the major philanthropic move and how it will operate, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said that the main goal is to provide Arab youth with the 21st century skills and knowledge they need to fulfil their promise as future leaders.

“This includes offering education opportunities to outstanding students who are underprivileged and funding high-impact innovative programmes that will improve the quality of education in the Arab World,” he said.

“The foundation’s operations will be results driven and based on good governance principles,” he said. “It will employ a highly competent team who will be guided by a strong board of governors and advisers. It aims to be efficient yet it will not compromise on achieving the highest impact possible with the investments it makes.”

He added that it will establish partnerships with the best in the philanthropic, private and education sectors regionally and globally.

As part of the process, the foundation will award grants based on a highly competitive process. It will work in partnership with distinguished education institutions in the region and the world.

It will also promote academic subjects that address the needs of the local and global economy and the priorities of nation building. Grants for higher education will be made through a clear and transparent process and awarded based on merit to Emirati and Arab youth in need of financial assistance.

Describing the reason behind the decision of his father, who has always been a strong supporter of education since the 1960s, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair explained that the deep commitment to the society we live in and the growing need for education to address various challenges faced by the Arab world today has prompted his father to commit one third of his total wealth to the Abdullah Al Ghurair Education Foundation.

“It is a pity that talented young men and women in the UAE and the Arab world are not able to effectively contribute to their families, their countries and the society at large because of lack of means for education. My father wanted to do something to equip these people to become strong pillars of our society,” said Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair.

He said the entire Al Ghurair family unanimously supports this initiative and are fully committed to reach the benefits of this foundation to talented and deserving people.

The foundation owns one-third of the assets of the Abdullah Ahmad Al Ghurair group of companies which will support the continuity of this initiative. The wealth pledged to the foundation is income-earning assets which will continue to enhance its resources to support future generations of the needy.

Since the pledge was made, a number of Emiratis have praised the initiative.

Emirati researcher and writer Abdul Gaffar Hussain said it’s a move to be praised.

“The UAE Cabinet must issue a resolution to make the announcement a reality and follow-up on its implementation,” he said.

Ahmad Al Shaikh, who works in the tourism sector, hoped Abdullah Al Ghurair’s donation would inspire other Emirati businessmen to follow in his footsteps.

“Giving to charity is something common among Emiratis. We learnt it from our leaders. However, giving such a huge amount is truly remarkable and deserves to be praised. I hope Al Ghurair’s move will inspire more businessmen to donate money to different causes,” he said.

Emirati student Hamda Aziz, who studies international relations at Zayed University, also commended Abdullah Al Ghurair’s move.

“Having an Emirati businessman donating a huge amount to provide something as important as education is a source of pride for me as an Emirati,” she said.

-With inputs from Noor Nazzal, Staff Reporter

Gulf News takes a look at some prominent philanthropists:

Juma Al Majid has embarked on large-scale charitable work to fight illiteracy and provide education to the needy as a first step towards empowering them.

In the 1950s, Al Majid, with a number of his colleagues, established the first charitable society to help the needy in Dubai, so they established two secondary schools.

In 1983, he established the National Charity Schools to help needy expatriate students obtain free education.

The number of students attending classes now exceeds 9,000, poor students continue enjoying free education, while others are requested to pay cost only.
He established the Islamic and Arabic Studies College in 1987 in Dubai.

In 1990, Al Majid, along with other local philanthropists, established Beit Al Khair Society, a charitable organisation which aims to aid poor citizens, needy students, as well as offers cash or commodities to victims of disasters.

He has helped to established many schools in Arab and Islamic countries, and funded education, especially for Palestinians.

In 1991, Al Majid realised the needs of scholars and researchers, especially those who are unable to obtain the necessary books, references and manuscripts, so he established a public library, which was later developed to become a cultural organisation known as the Juma Al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage.

Sultan Al Owais has donated hundreds of millions of dirhams for the construction of several projects such as Al Baraha Hospital in Dubai, the main mosque at Dhaid, several dams in the northern emirates and various schools and hospitals in the UAE and other Arab countries.

He established the bi-annual Al Owais prize in 1988 for culture managed by the UAE Writers Association in four fields, namely, poetry, literary criticism, novels and futuristic studies, and later he added a fifth prize for achievement.

He has also established an annual prize for UAE citizens for the encouragement of research and innovation under the control of the Dubai-based Cultural and Scientific Association.

Khalaf Al Habtoor has been donating to the Carter Centre, an organisation set up by former US President Jimmy Carter to fight disease and promote peace.

He has funded a sports field at the American University in Cairo and bequeathed more than Dh3.67 million for a leadership centre at Illinois College in Jacksonville.

There are many other Emirati donors who contribute regularly to various charity

— Compiled by Abdul Kareem, Head of Archives