DUBAI // A new Dubai-based foundation seeking to help 10 million underprivileged children around the world will have a "profound" impact on their lives, said the former US president, Bill Clinton.
Mr Clinton was speaking during the launch of the Varkey GEMS Foundation last night at the Dubai American Academy.
The foundation is part of GEMS Education, which is based in Dubai and the world's largest private education company for kindergarten children through to grade 12 pupils.
The foundation will focus on providing scholarships for the brightest and most gifted children in poor countries, as well as teacher training, professional development and mentoring for school leaders.
"A lack of education for children is underpublicised, but one of the most important challenges we face in the 21st century," Mr Clinton said.
He said more than 200 million children around the world had little or no education, but the Varkey Foundation would play a crucial role in attempting to improve the situation.
"A quality education is the key to solving our most pressing global challenges. Education opens a whole new world of opportunities and choices for millions of underprivileged children," Mr Clinton said. "The benefits from an educated child will affect not only the child itself, but his or her family, and the wider community. The Varkey GEMS Foundation's commitment will bring that opportunity to millions more children around the world."
Children that benefit from the foundation will be able to take up scholarships in selected countries throughout the Middle East.
The foundation aims to help 100 underprivileged children for every pupil enrolled at a GEMS school.
"Now a 10-year-old can find out something that I needed to go to university to learn, in a matter of seconds," Mr Clinton said.
"But with this explosion in knowledge is the fact that many, many children around the world simply cannot take advantage of that. As thousands upon thousands of children are educated by this foundation, they could become the future leaders of their countries, or scientists, or putting back into their own communities to give other children the opportunity to learn."
The foundation will work to create programmes to mentor and train school leadership teams, both online and on location, to help raise the quality of education. GEMS teachers and staff, who come from 60 nationalities, will become ambassadors for the foundation in their home countries, helping teacher training in subjects like Maths and English.
The company will also use the know-how of its senior management to work with other like-minded non-governmental organisations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, Dubai Cares and Pratham.
"I believe that education is the most important issue in the world today. The fact that there are 70 million school-age children worldwide who have never attended school is intolerable," said Sunny Varkey, the founder and chairman of GEMS Education.
"For us to confront, collectively, all the conflict, the prejudice, poverty, intolerance and unprecedented environmental challenges, we need to improve both the quality and access to education worldwide," Mr Varkey said. The Varkey GEMS Foundation would, he said, utilise its resources and expertise to education, involving 100,000 students from 125 nationalities, 9,000 staff and hundreds of thousands of parents.
"The Varkey GEMS Foundation was established because we believe our charitable work needed to be more structured and strategic in order to meet our goal of impacting 100 underprivileged children for every child enrolled at a GEMS school," added Vikas Pota, the chief executive of Varkey GEMS Foundation.