Fu­ture Per­fect

Bespoke - - AGFE -

In the Arab world, con­flict and poverty of­ten lim­its ac­cess to school­ing. As a re­sult thou­sands of youths are strug­gling to get the ed­u­ca­tion they de­serve. Meet Maysa Jal­bout, the CEO of a bil­lion dol­lar foun­da­tion vy­ing to change all that, one stu­dent at a time.

’ve met hun­dreds of young peo­ple over the past eight years who have shared with me in­cred­i­ble and har­row­ing sto­ries of what it meant for them to get ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion,” Maysa Jal­bout, the CEO of a fairly new ven­ture aimed at im­prov­ing ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, tells me. We are mid­way through a thought-pro­vok­ing con­ver­sa­tion and Jal­bout – slen­der, with al­mond eyes and a warm and earnest tone – pauses. “I’ve heard sto­ries of fam­i­lies sell­ing ev­ery­thing they had so that they could send their child to univer­sity, sto­ries of kids who have to work two jobs, or study part-time and take twice as long to com­plete their ed­u­ca­tion. I’ve heard of young peo­ple study­ing over can­dle­light, hud­dled in fear of shells fall­ing over their heads. Those sto­ries are ex­tremely im­por­tant. Those are the young peo­ple we are tar­get­ing: the young peo­ple who have an in­nate de­sire to get out of the sit­u­a­tion they’re in and to a bet­ter place.” The ‘we’ Jal­bout refers to is the Ab­dulla Al Ghu­rair Foun­da­tion for Ed­u­ca­tion (AGFE). Launched in July last year, this pri­vately funded phil­an­thropic ini­tia­tive aims to pro­vide ac­cess to learn­ing through schol­ar­ships and other ini­tia­tives. It has a de­clared goal of cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for at least 15,000 promis­ing Arab youths from un­der­priv­i­leged back­grounds and an ini­tial bud­get of 1.15 bil­lion USD over the next 10 years. Only last month, Al Ghu­rair an­nounced a new part­ner­ship with the in­cred­i­bly pres­ti­gious Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT) to pro­vide an open learn­ing pro­gramme that comes with ‘Mi­cro­mas­ter’s’ de­grees. At the head of this high-reach­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion – one of the world’s largest, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foun­da­tion – is the sin­cere, qui­etly se­ri­ous Jal­bout. It’s now her job to suc­cess­fully nav­i­gate one of the largest pri­vately funded phil­an­thropic ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives in the world. “There are chal­lenges, of course,” she says at one point with a smile. “What

The phil­an­thropic ini­tia­tive has a de­clared goal of cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for at least 15,000 promis­ing Arab youths from un­der­priv­i­leged back­grounds.

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