Majid Al Futtaim and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have announced their partnership to help send one million children to school by 2020. The two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that aims at providing quality education opportunities for the most vulnerable and marginalised children across the MENA region, starting with 200,000 direct beneficiaries which will include children, parents and teachers.
Aligned to Majid Al Futtaim’s socio-economic sustainability goal, ‘Transforming Lives’ and the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 4), the partnership will focus on improving access to integrated and inclusive early childhood development programmes. This will result in improved child-friendly education, safe learning environments, promoting life skills and citizenship education for children in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon and the UAE.
The MoU was signed by Alain Bejjani, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim – Holding and Shahida Azfar, deputy executive director, UNICEF, in a signing ceremony held at Majid Al Futtaim headquarters in Dubai.
Despite the decreasing number of out-of-school children in the MENA region, which has dropped by over 18% since 2008, bringing hope and new opportunities to millions, the region still has nearly 22 million children who are either out of school or at risk of dropping out. These children include the most vulnerable, including girls who live in rural areas and those from minority communities.
“We are extremely proud to partner with UNICEF to enhance the lives of one million children across the region. Majid Al Futtaim, like other private sector organisations, has a unique opportunity and an obligation to play a meaningful role in providing access to early learning opportunities and a quality education,” says Bejjani. “As an organisation that puts people at its heart, we believe public-private partnerships are critical to the future success and well-being of local communities, where we work to create the future leaders of tomorrow.”
“Millions of children are not in school because of poverty and lack of services. These include children on the move who have been forced out of their homes to seek safety for their lives. Majid Al Futtaim’s extensive network through its partners, employees and customers will enable more people to help disadvantaged children get access to quality, inclusive and safe learning environments so that no child is left behind,” adds Eltayeb Adam, Gulf Area Office representative, UNICEF.
The partnership will roll out several awareness campaigns to educate the public on how to contribute to a reduction in the number of out-of-school children as well as raising funds through Majid Al Futtaim’s assets in six countries – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Lebanon and the UAE.
Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls recently launched an awareness campaign encouraging visitors to share their moments across social media platforms and Majid Al Futtaim will donate AED1 to send children to school with every post. VOX Cinemas has already raised over AED300,000 (close to $100,000) from 100,000 unique customers across its different locations.