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.