Why not fund education in the Middle East and North Africa rather than putting teenagers through British schools?
It is vitally important to have good education in the Middle East and North Africa, and there are many great teachers working very hard to make a difference. But in many countries, the system itself is a problem, and the education that millions of children receive doesn’t given them the necessary tools to compete globally.
Studies can often be dictated, whilst in some countries, pupils cannot study their own history. The Cogito Scholarship Foundation believes that, if the right talents are given access to the best education, they can become part of the solution to the current social, economic and political problems of their home countries.
It costs £20,000 to 30,000 a year to go to these schools. Isn’t there a cheaper option available locally?
Millions of pupils have gone through the education systems in the Middle East and North Africa, and we believe the results have not been effective.
If leadership is the way to improve the current social, cultural, economic and political crises in the region, then our leaders need the right tools to succeed.
They need to come into contact with, experience, and be able to talk with people from all over the world. An open-minded, first-rate education is necessary to do that. Once our students have received a first-class education, they can start to give back to, and improve, their community.
How do you select the students?
The Foundation does not choose which students are awarded scholarships. Instead, we rely on educational professionals – teachers and alumni – in each country who are supported by a dedicated team of educational professionals in the UK. These teams shortlist candidates who are then evaluated through an intense, multi-stage process that includes academic tests and formal interviews.
Won’t these teenagers simply focus on getting good jobs, forgetting all about their home countries?
Far from it. Our experience is that the people who are least likely to use a good career path for their own gains are those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Cogito students are all too aware of the problems their communities face, and are already giving back to their people. You only have to read the interviews with our current students to see how focused they are on making life better in the refugee camps and countries they come from.
Our students have already inspired whole communities. They are visible ripples of hope who are changing the aspirations of many, many people.
Won’t the students become ‘Westernised’?
Talk to a Cogito student, and he or she will tell you that they appreciate the positive things about their culture all the more, now that they are looking at them from the outside.
Cogito’s students learn in the West, but they don’t lose touch with their roots. We ensure that is the case. Indeed, they often have the chance to learn more about their homelands than when they lived there. Often, the books they studied back home did not reflect the diverse nature of their own backgrounds and cultures.
Cogito is not about religion. We are not tied to any one country. We are looking to establish new chapters in Tunisia, Egypt and Gaza. Education is the only constant factor.
Will Cogito contribute to a ‘brain drain’?
It is ridiculous to criticise a charity that looks to educate young people. The alternative for them – to stay at home, often without an education or any prospects – is far more worrying.
A drain is already happening in countries like Syria, as millions try to flee countries in the Middle East and North Africa. The way to stop this drain from worsening, we believe, is by creating countries where people want to live and contribute to society.
How do we do that? With well-educated leaders who will shape such countries over the coming years.