10 Dec /12

Qater – oiling the wheels of education

It is a greater work to educate a child than to rule a state”
William Ellery Channing

Qatar invests oil money in educationBeing named as host of the 2022 football World Cup brought Qatar envy and criticism. While acknowledging the country as a rising power, few people saw it as a natural venue for an outdoor summer sports event. Whatever the outcome of a football tournament a decade from now, Quatar’s current success in tapping its oil and gas reserves has attracted a different brand of envy after giving this small peninsula state the highest GDP per capita of any country in the world.

Critics might have to bite their tongues, though, if plans to spread Qatar’s energy wealth move forward as intended. At the 2012 WISE summit in Doha the wife of Qatar’s emir, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, announced ground-breaking ambitions to ensure primary education for the next generation, not only within its own borders but well beyond them.

At the turn of the century, the United Nations made a series of “millennium pledges” to improve the global quality of life by 2015. Prominent among them was a plan for universal primary education. With three years left to the deadline, this goal seems as distant as ever. 61 million children of primary school age lack access to the most basic education, with almost half living in war zones. To its great credit, Qatar proposes to use its oil and gas revenue to kick-start the pledge and significantly improve primary, secondary and higher education.

Among those in attendance in Doha were former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, now UN envoy for global education, and Dr Madhav Chavan, whose work educating India’s poor earned him the WISE prize. Dubbed the “Nobel Prize for Education”, the $500,000 award was created and funded by Qatar’s energy-rich elite. Dr Chavan’s success in Doha was fitting recognition for a lifetime’s selfless commitment, but the commitment of his hosts was equally striking. Over the coming two decades, Qatar proposes to use its energy bounty to create a knowledge economy, investing in and safeguarding its future and the world’s.

With proven oil reserves in excess of 25 billion barrels and proven natural gas reserves exceeding 25 trillion cubic meters, the country has plenty of scope for this investment. Education projects across Africa, Asia, South America and Europe have brought hope to those in need, and helping to bankroll the rebuilding of Haiti’s schools and hospitals after the ruinous earthquake of 2010 has brought comfort to those who lost almost everything to natural disaster. And closer to home, nine newly built universities and a lavish medical training and research centre are recent additions to the country’s burgeoning academic system.

Dr Madhav Chavan’s comment on Qatar’s generosity summed up the views of many of those attending the WISE summit:

“The world isn’t divided between the haves and have nots, but the gives and give nots”.

The oil and gas industry attracts its share of criticism and draws the anger and cynicism of its opponents, but EVS Translations is proud to be the translation partner of choice for many of the industry’s most progressive and ethical standard bearers. And it’s clear that those in control of Qatar’s energy riches have taken their place among the “gives”. We can’t yet be certain how much better off the world will be for their largesse, but it’s safe to say there will be a positive impact for this distinctive brand of 21st century alchemy. Qatar really is converting oil and gas into education.