Parts of the Middle East and North Africa currently face a large-scale social, cultural, economic and political crisis.
The Cogito Scholarship Foundation is a UK-based charity that aims to help break the region’s vicious cycle of decline through education.
The Foundation identifies the brightest teenagers from the poorest communities in the Middle East and North Africa, and gives them scholarships to some of the best academic institutions in the UK. Giving teenagers access to these schools gives them a springboard to the best universities, enabling them to realise their talents and achieve their career ambitions. The programme will soon expand to schools in other countries, including the USA.
We believe that, with the right education and opportunities, children from these underprivileged communities can become their countries’ future mentors and leaders. We want to help teenagers today, so that they can help their countries tomorrow.
Tapping into our extensive network of schools across the Middle East and North Africa, we select the most capable underprivileged boys and girls, many of whom currently live in refugee camps and study in United Nations schools.
We support our students through school – whether they study A Levels or the International Baccalaureate – before preparing them for university and successful careers. Whilst at school they are encouraged to celebrate their cultures and realise their current and future role as ambassadors for their countries.
They understand the importance of making a difference by becoming valuable members of a global society. Their ultimate aim is to give back; supporting the countries of their birth either financially, politically or as ambassadors, whilst becoming role models to a generation of aspiring young adults.
We currently help 11 students, but our ambition is to expand the programme so that 100 children a year, both boys and girls, can benefit from a life-changing education. In that way, 20 years from now, we will have supported 2000 leaders from across selected countries and communities in the MENA region.
Our longer-term ambition is to change the trajectory of countries in the Middle East and North Africa in just one generation. An active network of Cogito scholars will support each other, and be part of each other’s lives, long after they have completed their formal education. This network of Cogito scholars, we hope, will one day work together, for the good of their own communities.
Longer term, our students have a desire and a commitment to return to their countries and rebuild their communities. But in the shorter term, they are already giving back – inspiring others to see education as the way forward, and even tutoring fellow refugees over Skype.
We believe that this is just the start. The knock-on effects of helping the best and the brightest are, potentially, enormous. By helping individuals, we are already lifting up families and communities. The next step is to help entire countries.