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Ex-Google CEO backs global refugee education initiative with $1.6m donation

Schmidt Futures, co-founded by Wendy Schmidt and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, has pledged $1.6m towards a new refugee education initiative.

The project is a collaboration with global education movement United World Colleges (UWC) and refugee education providers Amala, which was founded by two UWC alumni. The collaboration sees the launch of an education programme in a Kenyan refugee camp and 15 full scholarships at one of UWC’s 18 schools across the globe.

The news comes as Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust have launched a new global talent programme called Rise, aimed at 15-17-year-olds who want to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing humanity.

The announcement comes at a time when education opportunities for refugees have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN claimed in September that half of the world’s refugee children are out of school, and the UN Higher Commissioner has said that refugees face a ‘pandemic of poverty’.

The inequalities in education opportunities were already stark before the pandemic. Only a quarter of refugees (24%) were in secondary school education compared to 84% of the overall global population.

Eric Schmidt, Co-founder of Schmidt Futures, said:

We are living in a time of both significant global challenges and unique global opportunities. With the launch of Rise, we hope to identify and empower the next generation of brilliant leaders around the world in a way that has never been done before.

We’ll harness the power of technology to find talented young people who would otherwise go undiscovered or unsupported, connect them in a global community, and give them the resources to use their talents for good throughout their lives.

Musimbi Kanyoro, Chair of UWC International, said:

Conflicts, wars and injustice deny millions of children their right to education and jeopardise their wider development efforts. By supporting their education, we reaffirm their humanity and unlock their power for self-reflection, learning and leading change.

Rise is part of a broader $1 billion pledge announced Eric and Wendy Schmidt last year to identify and support talent around the world.

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Image by Amala