Education is the key to solving the world’s most pressing challenges, former US President Bill Clinton said on Sunday during a speech in Dubai.
“Education opens a whole new world of opportunities and choices for millions of underprivileged children. The benefits from an educated child will affect not only the child itself, but his or her family and the wider community,” President Clinton told an audience at the Dubai American Academy.
“It may be naïve, but I still believe that if all of us make sure that all of our children had the chance to learn, the chance to glory in the power of their own minds, if they had something to look forward to every morning, I believe that there would be fewer wars, less killings and more understanding and cooperation,” he said.
Clinton was speaking at the launch of the Varkey GEMS Foundation in Dubai. Fronted by the UAE-based schools group GEMS Education, the initiative aims to bolster educational opportunities for children through scholarships, teacher training and mentoring.
GEMS has pledged that, for every child enrolled in its schools, a further 100 children will be impacted. In its first phase, the foundation seeks to impact 10 million children.
Around 3,000 children already receive subsidised or free schooling through the foundation, said CEO Vikas Pota.
“Through our schools we estimate that over $30m has been raised in the last few years. On top of that, all our spending as a business, we will be contributing,” he told Arabian Business.
“We’re committed to putting whatever resources we have into meeting the challenges we’ve outlined. Let me just state, this is not about appearances, this is actually about doing meaningful work.”
The foundation will also provide scholarships to underprivileged children in the Middle East, said Sunny Varkey, chairman of GEMS Education.
“The fact that there are 70 million school age children worldwide who have never attended school is intolerable,” he said. “[The foundation] will provide thousands of scholarships and… a number of those will be identified in the Middle East.”
Going forward, the foundation plans to shift its focus towards teacher training and leadership networks, utilising its links with non-governmental organisations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Dubai Cares.
“A teacher will influence 30 kids, and a head teacher could impact 2,500, 3,000 to 5,000 kids. We have to go to the most disadvantaged countries in the world as this is where we can make the most impact,” Pota said.
“If you look at the reports, the McKinsey reports or the CISCO report that came out, it’s all about teachers. If you can have a profound impact on teachers, you can have an impact on the situation in the world,” he added.
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