I traveled to Doha last week to attend the WISE conference sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. In its fourth year, the conference aims to be a Davos of education, bringing together non-profits, governmental organizations, educators and for-profit groups to discuss ways to improve education for children around the world.

What’s clear is that is an awful lot of effort on the part of a lot of people especially in working with disadvantaged students. Still, it was hard to get any depth into any one topic as the conference was broadly focused to include communities around the world and with different sets of needs. I was interested to find out groups like Pratham, which have focused on India and would’ve liked to have seen similar activities in the Arab World.

Perhaps those will come about from a new initiative announced by Sheikha Moza, the Qatari emir’s wife, called “Educate A Child.” It aims to bring about 61 million children in the world’s poorest communities who aren’t in any kind of schooling into the classroom. No doubt, some of those will be impoverished Arabs. I wrote a brief story for The New York Times on the initiative, below.

 

 

Qatari Spearheads Efforts to Educate 61 Million Children

DOHA, QATAR

By ANGELA SHAH

Sheika Moza bint Nasser, wife of the emir of Qatar, has created a program that seeks to educate the 61 million children worldwide who have no access to formal schooling.

The Educate a Child initiative, which was announced at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Doha on Wednesday, has partnerships with five global development organizations, including Unesco and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. It seeks both to support new education efforts and to improve existing ones, especially those tied to getting more girls into schools.

“Millions of children are being robbed of their fundamental right to quality education,” Sheika Moza said at the conference, which was sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. “Right across the world, because of disaster, because of poverty, children are being denied a chance to change their destinies. We can change this, and because we can, we must.”

The groups together plan to invest $152.6 million on 25 projects in 17 countries over the next three to seven years, with an emphasis on some of the world’s poorest communities, conflict zones and nomadic societies. These initiatives include “floating boat” schools that serve as both bus and schoolhouse for poor children in the flood-prone delta of the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh and efforts to provide primary education for children in refugee camps in South Sudan.

A spokeswoman for Sheika Moza declined to say how much Educate a Child was investing in the venture.

Gordon Brown, the former British prime minister who is the United Nations’ special envoy for education, said at the announcement in Doha that Educate a Child’s efforts tied directly into the U.N. Millennium Development Goals on education. He added that the U.N. would have a plan in place by April for countries not on track to meet those goals.

“It’s our duty to make sure resources are allocated to meet this objective, and it’s important that new organizations and foundations are willing to support this,” Mr. Brown said. “Sheika Moza is the catalyst to ensure that we can and we will accomplish the U.N. development goal objective.”

Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice chairman and managing director of the Indian conglomerate Bharti Enterprises, was also present at the announcement.

“I firmly believe that if you educate a girl, you educate a family,” said Mr. Mittal, who is also chairman of the Bharti Foundation, an Educate a Child partner. “You educate future generations.”

Though Educate a Child was formally announced last week, the foundation said that it started financing initiatives last spring and had reached 500,000 children so far. “For me, this is not enough,” Sheika Moza said.

 

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