Tell us a little bit about the aims and objectives behind the literacy bus initiative?
Maytha Al Habsi, chief programmes officer of the Emirates Foundation, says “Isref Sah Outreach Bus aims at educating Emirati youth on financial literacy by guiding them through the new and effective ways of personal spending, encouraging them to adopt effective saving habits and helping them avoid debts. The mobile bus is a part of the Financial Literacy programme, which educates our youth on ways to manage their current and future financial and asset base. It encourages better management of debt and provides learning opportunities on how to create a positive relationship with their finances.”
Why is financial literacy so important? And of course when is the best time for people to develop such skills and knowledge?
Ms Al Habsi: Financial literacy has emerged as an increasingly important issue, notably in light of the global recession, where managing debt effectively emerged as a very salient subject. We want to be able to help young people in the UAE learn how to avoid excessive debt and manage their finances such that they can provide for themselves and their loved ones throughout their lifetime. Research has shown that young people around the world, and particularly in the UAE, often struggle to manage the wide array of sources of debt and often do not have sufficient financial literacy to manage their future asset base.
How long will the bus initiative last? Will it be expanded to other parts of the UAE? What are the next steps?
Ms Al Habsi: We have launched the Isref Sah programme this year as a pilot project. This week we organised week-long “Train the trainers” sessions dubbed the 100 Youth Club project. We have plans to scale up the project to expand into all other emirates.
Is any age too young to learn the necessary money skills?
Ms Al Habsi: We have targeted youth at a very young age, but we mainly focus on the college and secondary school students who are preparing to enter the job market.
Globally, how has carrying out such initiatives been successful? What did you learn from what has been done elsewhere?
John Hope Bryant, chief executive, chairman and founder of Operation Hope, says “I have been to 100 countries and have learnt that you give and take. I have learnt a great deal from many different cultures and can confirm the motto is global. What we are doing in the United States is not a western or US motto, it’s a global one. It requires conceptualisation and localisation – to be global you have to think and act globally. It is all about respecting the people. The value, virtue and culture – the core of the work – is the same, but the overlay is local. The success and failure all depends on that overlay.”
Is the UAE different in terms of culture? How do you apply these lessons here?
Mr Bryant: Of course. Things are different for women. Women have such great positions in the workforce, and 20 years ago this wouldn’t happen. The UAE is open to recognising new ideas – it is the only country where money flows to them like water. However, Emiratis should not get too comfortable with the feeling that there is enough money. They should avoid falling into the same trap as Detroit.