Thousands of refugee children will be educated through a Dh100 million fund provided by Emirati philanthropist Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair.
The three-year fund hopes to provide schooling for at least 5,000 refugee children and young people in Jordan, Lebanon and other Arab countries, who have been affected by war and disasters.
The money will be used to support educational programmes in countries hosting refugees, but also for those who are being hosted by the UAE who are struggling to pay school fees.
It covers secondary, vocational and tertiary levels, awarding grants through a competitive selection process to education institutions and non-government organisations working with refugee children and youth.
The announcement was timed to coincide with World Refugee Day.
Mr Al Ghurair said host countries were struggling to cope with the financial pressure caused by a flood of refugees. He said it was also significant that the fund was being established in the Year of Zayed.
“I believe that philanthropists have a role in helping to support one of the most acute challenges of our region – lack of education opportunities for young people who need it the most,” he said.
“Young people whose education has been interrupted by conflict deserve a chance to rebuild their lives and have a shot at a good future.”
Grants will first be awarded to partner organisations in Jordan, Lebanon and the UAE before the start of the new school year, with proposals for the next round of funding invited early next year.
The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education previously launched the Open Learning Scholars Programme in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016.
Its goal is to create an online learning system that promises Arabs across the region access to a world-class education.
The UN children’s agency Unicef estimates that the conflict in Syria has left two million children without schooling.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the fund reflected his organisation’s approach, “where individuals and organisations work hand in hand to ensure that people who have been forced to flee are able to rebuild their lives and take control of their futures”.
“The fund highlights the importance of the Arab world’s business community in creating a positive impact through supporting the region’s displaced communities,” Mr Grandi said.
Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, called it an “important initiative that will make a difference in the lives of thousands of young people, and I am encouraged that other business leaders will follow”.