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Qatar’s “Educate A Child” initiative is important more than ever

In 2012, Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar started an initiative called “Educate A Child” (EAC) under the umbrella of Qatar’s Education Above All (EAA) Foundation, which is a global program to educate children in deprived areas. EAC’s focus is on enabling children to fulfil their fundamental right to education by eliminating the obstacles that prevent them from accessing a full course of quality, primary education. EAC specifically targets children who have no access to schools in the most backward areas across the world. EAA has successfully completed over two hundred programs in its existence. It is significant that the UN’s declaration of September 9 as the ‘International Day to Protect Education from Attack’ was supported by EAA.

Fast forward, the ‘COVID-19’ pandemic ravaged the global economy, shut down schools, paralyzed government spending on education and threatens the achievement of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 4 which is ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” In addition, the support that is available for “young girls, children with disabilities, refugees, or as members of religious, ethnic or linguistic minorities” will be crucial.

In 2019, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) reported that 58.4 million children were uneducated. Post-pandemic, this number is expected to rise significantly. Unlike developed countries, half of the global south had no infrastructure to impart remote learning effectively. As the world crawls to build a momentum of growth, voluntary programmes like Educate a Child (EAC) are going to play a huge role in ensuring a generation is not lost to illiteracy again.

EAC has six principles including the right to education, equality, collaboration, transparency, innovation and diversity. EAC is unique in the way that it tries to bridge formal with non-formal education approach in order to bypass the challenges posed by “geography, circumstances or context.” Among the objectives that EAC aims to achieve include “influence the enrolment and retention of at least 10 million out of school children,” while supporting the quality development of schools. EAC aims to mobilize US$1 billion for supporting education globally in addition to developing innovative financing mechanisms for fostering programme sustainability. For this, the EAC team works with partner organizations in regions with extreme poverty, cultural barriers and conflict-prone areas.

EAC has trained teachers, provided accommodation to new teachers, provided textbooks, and constructed classrooms. In the previous decade, Qatar’s ‘Education Above All’ supported 80 projects in 53 nations that span from Latin America to South-East Asia including Africa and India. EAA has been involved in over 250 projects with different targets since 2007.

Among the barriers that the EAC has recognized and works with experienced partners include Refugees, shortage of resources/training, lack of infrastructure, poor education, post-conflict instability zones, challenges of difficult geography, poverty/child labour, gender bias, and finally displacements due to climate change.

Qatar’s initiative on education needs to be replicated by other countries, especially developed countries. The Global South suffered the reverses of the pandemic for a longer phase due to inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Even today, many countries are partially vaccinated in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Problems in developing countries often create problems for developed countries as well in the form of terrorism, radicalism, illegal migration and drugs.

Education is essential for breaking the vicious cycle of poverty, reducing gender inequality and keeping the ills of radicalism on the horizon. In the words of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, “Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world.”

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