An Emirati philanthropist has sent out a vital plea to charity organisations and the private sector to throw their support behind his Dh100 million mission to provide education for thousands of refugees across the region.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair launched a three-year project to provide aid for youngsters affected by conflict and disaster in the Middle East in 2018.
The humanitarian initiative helped 6,000 refugees in its first year, with another 10,000 set to benefit in the second of three rounds of funding.
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund awards grants from its Dh100 million resources to education institutions and non-government organisations working with refugee children.
Mr Al Ghurair said his organisation would distribute Dh25 million to bodies that supported the education and development of learners in the UAE, Lebanon and Jordan, over the next 12 months.
But he said more backing is needed in order for the fund to help as many people as possible.
“We need more charities and the private sector to help us increase the level of support we can offer,” he said in Dubai on Tuesday morning.
“Now more than ever, the private sector needs to come together to create platforms that provide quality, inclusive and equitable education to refugees.
“We should encourage partnerships between governments, businesses and individuals in boosting the resources that are available for education.”
He said that it was only through education that young people could develop their minds, character and perspective to become productive and self-reliant.
To date, the group has distributed aid through a number of partners including Emirates Red Crescent, the United Nations High Commissioner for Children (UNHCR), the United Nations Refugee Agency, Relief International in Jordan and War Child Holland in Lebanon.
The need to offer further support was urgent, according to Mr Ghurair, who pointed out that only 4.8 per cent of refugees in Jordan have access to education.
The figure was even starker in Lebanon with a mere 1.8 per cent of refugees being able to obtain schooling.
The focus of the project’s second year of funding is to enable secondary-level and vocational students to be equipped with the tools to find a job.
“We believe that education is just as important for refugee youth as food and shelter,” he said.
“It is not just a basic right and necessity, but also a tool for recovery.
“Going back to school partially restores normality for the young people and enables them to obtain knowledge and skills to help them chart a successful career path and earn a sustainable income.”
The majority of refugees in the region have been displaced by war and violence in Syria, according to the United Nations.
There have been more than 5.6 million people who have fled the country since 2011, with an additional 6.5 million estimated to be internally displaced.
There are more than a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone, with 70 per cent of them said to be living below the poverty line.
A major partner of the fund is Emirates Red Crescent, who help finance the school fees of children who are temporarily residing in the UAE due to conflicts in their home countries.
“The UAE has embraced humanitarian efforts to offer support to victims of wars and disasters,” said Rashid Mubarak Al Mansouri, deputy secretary general of Emirates Red Crescent.
“Close to 400 children will benefit directly from this support in the UAE.”
The Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Fund will also team up with the UNHCR in Jordan to allow more than 1,000 students to enrol in English language courses.
“Refugee children often face multiple barriers preventing their access to education,” said Khalid Khalifa, Gulf area regional representative for the UNHCR.
“That is why it is imperative that we continue working with committed partners to find innovative solutions to tackle the many barriers preventing refugee children from accessing their right to education.”