Education in QatarWhile Qatar’s location — Surrounded by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq — makes it a hot spot of human rights violations and war, education in the country is blossoming.

Public education in Qatar was first established in 1952. Since then, the Muslim nation has created entities to preserve the heritage and uphold the integrity of the nation.

One such body is the Supreme Education Council (SEC). Dedicated to creating, “Education for a New Era,” the SEC focuses on modernizing standards and making education highly accessible, regardless of economic status. The SEC also subsidizes independent schools, which cover elementary, intermediary, and secondary educational stages.

Within the public sector, there is a specialization of education exclusively for boys, which include a religious institute, a secondary school of commerce, and a secondary school of technology.

Additionally, the SEC created several institutes concentrating on special education. Originally separated by gender, the Al Amal School for Boys and Al Amal School for Girls now provide an education for both genders.

Qatar also offers many private and public universities, including Qatar University, Weill Cornell College of Medicine in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

In order to achieve Qatar’s 2030 national vision in human development, education in Qatar focuses on the exploration of information and communication technology, both in the learning and teaching processes.

To create this vision, Qatar has developed the Exploring ICT Education Conference. Now in its seventh year, the keynote speakers gave presentations addressing topics such as digital literacy, Lego EV3 robotics, and security awareness.

One of the most recent initiatives to increase education standards and development in Qatar is the leading nonprofit Qatar Foundation that serves the people of Qatar by supporting and operating programs in three essential areas: education, science and research, and community expansion.

The nonprofit organization is responsible for collaborations, such as seminars to promote intercultural communication at the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar University’s, which were held in July.

Education in Qatar is rapidly growing. With the aid and support of the government, the education sector demonstrates the potential to provide access to high-quality education for all, as well as the ability of traditions to be modernized, while maintaining their integrity.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Qatar

The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics disclosed on June 6, 2016 that 1.4 million people, nearly 60% of Qatar’s population, live in what the Qatari government officially labels as “labor camps.”

Migrants from poorer countries have moved to Qatar in recent years to develop its infrastructure for tourism projects, including preparation for the 2022 World Cup.

However, migrant workers continue to live a life of poverty in Qatar, with many human rights groups like Amnesty International condemning Qatar for providing “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its very large migrant workforce.

According to Amnesty International, migrant workers are also not paid for several months at a time, which puts significant emotional and financial pressures on workers already burdened with heavy debts.

Recently, 13 people died in a fire that broke out in a labor camp for migrants working on a waterfront tourism project in southwest Qatar. The fire highlights how Qatar has treated migrant workers by providing poor living conditions for them.

The government responded to criticism by building new housing complexes for workers, including a city south of Doha. This new city, known as “Labour City,” will include cinemas, shops and a cricket stadium for migrant workers.

Outside of the government, various organizations have also assisted migrant workers to overcome their life of poverty in Qatar. One such organization is Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

On June 8, ROTA launched its Ramadan Project 2016, bringing together over 100 local volunteers to pack and distribute bulk groceries to more than 200 families in need across Qatar.

ROTA volunteers packaged food parcels containing items such as flour, cooking oil, milk powder and lentils that were later distributed before the start of Ramadan. The program also provided beneficiary families with shopping vouchers to purchase other products.

ROTA volunteers, numbering 300, partook in several community service activities set to take place over the month, including the installation of computer labs for migrants working on construction projects.

Despite living a life of poverty in Qatar, migrant workers are slowly overcoming hardships through additional assistance by the government and various organizations.

Alexis Pierce

Photo: Flickr

FIFA-Qatar-Kafala-System
The recent scandal surrounding corruption at FIFA has made headlines around the world. But could it affect the controversial 2022 World Cup in Qatar?

That remained in question Friday as FIFA re-elected Sepp Blatter as its president. The election comes on the heels of a massive corruption investigation involving the top brass of soccer’s governing body. The U.S. Department of Justice indicted 14 of the organization’s executives on dozens of separate charges this week. They are accused of “brazen corruption” in their dealings with sports marketing companies which generate billions for the organization.

FIFA is also accused of dishonesty in its selection process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively. The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland announced Wednesday that it would investigate “criminal mismanagement and money laundering” suspected to have taken place during the bidding process.

Though both selections raised eyebrows among soccer fans, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has proven to be the most controversial. The Gulf state has been widely accused of human rights abuses in its preparation for the event.

Migrant laborers seeking work in Qatar submit to a labor scheme, known as the kafala system, through which host companies “sponsor” foreign laborers. Upon arrival, many workers find their documentation confiscated and their rights severely limited. They sometimes work twelve hour days, seven days a week.

According to the International Labor Organization, the scheme is tantamount to slavery. An investigation by The Guardian found Nepalese workers in Qatar were dying at a rate of one every two days in 2014. Documents produced by that report list worker deaths caused by crushing and electrocution.

Without documentation papers, workers are prevented from ever leaving. Employers also withhold pay to suppress dissent.

Migrant workers play an enormous role in the economy of Qatar. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population is foreign-born and 99 percent of the private sector is foreign. Though human rights organizations and governments have complained, little has been done to address these issues.

Much of the work being conducted in this manner is in preparation for the 2022 World Cup, with contractors using the cheap labor to build facilities for the event.

If the current FIFA crisis continues, it will almost certainly jeopardize Qatar’s hosting opportunity. Sponsors have already begun to re-evaluate their relations with the organization and it is likely many will drop out.

As for the 2018 World Cup in Moscow, Blatter received a stamp of approval from another controversial president: Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Putin said the investigation was an attempt to thwart Blatter’s re-election. The Russian leader, who was a champion of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, called the investigation “a grave violation of principles of international organization.”

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: Department of Justice, The Guardian, Human Rights Watch, Swiss Attorney General
Photo: Zee News

 

kafala system
Exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar has become an increasingly pressing issue since the implementation of the Kafala labor system. The Kafala system requires migrant workers to have a sponsor, usually their employee, to monitor their work and to control their visa and legal status. These sponsors, however, often prevent their laborers from moving jobs and have been known to either underpay or deny their employees pay.

Many workers from India, Sri Lanka and Nepal have been attracted by false promises from Qatari employers, but once contractually committed, they cannot leave the country without the permission of their sponsor.

Reporters from The Guardian ventured to some of these labor camps west of Doha and met 25-year-old Ujjwal Thapa from Nepal. He came to Qatar to work in order to send money back to his family, but had not been paid for months. His employer has his passport so he cannot leave, and upon his arrival, his family was required to take out a loan of 660 pounds from a private lender that has an interest rate of 48 percent per year.

Question as to whether Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup has been a topic of concern due to these human trafficking issues. In their report on human trafficking, the U.S. state department wrote that, “initial consent of a construction worker to accept hard work in a harsh environment does not waive his or her right to work free of abuse. When an employer or laborer recruiter deceives a worker about the terms of employment, withholds their passports, holds them in brutal conditions and exploits their labor, the workers are victims of trafficking.”

Eight to 12 stadiums would need to be built for the 2022 games, and although the Qatar organizing committee reported that no one had died yet building the stadiums, that is only due to the fact that the true building process has not yet begun. Between 2012 and 2013, 450 Indian laborers died and 184 Nepali workers have died in the past year.

General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, Sharan Burrow, predicts that if the Kafala system does not change, 4,000 workers will lose their lives in preparation for the 2022 world cup.

The U.S. State Department is looking to end this system by May of 2015, and in their report on human trafficking, they noted that Qatar has promised to reform these unjust labor practices. Although no serious changes have been made to improve the labor system, Burrow believes that the Qatari government will change the system if refusing to change will deny them the chance to host the World Cup in 2022.

— Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: The Guardian, BusinessWeek, New York Times
Photo: DohaNews

Slavery in qatar
When many people think about the term “slavery,” they may reflect on it as a historical institution of the imperial powers of the West. They may even erroneously deem slavery as a decrepit artifact of the past. However, although many history textbooks tend to portray slavery as strictly a practice of the colonial and imperial past, this horrendous institution remains extant throughout many parts of the modern world, Qatar being one of them.

The very same countries that are thought of as exotic vacation hot-spots may also be teeming with covert slave trades. After all, since only a handful of nations are as developed and as advanced as the Western world, some of these less-developed nations rely on slave networks to buttress their nascent economies. For instance, the blistering topic of an emerging controversy unveiled by an investigation by The Guardian, slavery in Qatar has captured media attention because Qatar has purportedly used slave labor in its endeavors to prepare for World Cup 2022.

One may find it ironic that intense mistreatment can exist in a country whose population is composed primarily of migrant workers, however, it is an undeniable reality for many laborers in Qatar. Among Qatar’s two million residents, a paltry 225,000 are natural citizens with the rest of the populace primarily comprised of South Asian migrant workers. These workers hail from less-developed nations such as India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Qatari officials view the World Cup 2022 as a ceremony in which not only the classic sport of soccer is honored, but also in which cultural relations can be repaired. To prepare for the ceremony, Qatar is investing a reported $100 billion on infrastructure in addition to another $20 billion toward renovating roads and constructing new roads and stadiums. However, behind the glimmering windows and cascading high-rises lurks the masked scandal of slave labor.

According to the International Trade Union Confederation, approximately 4,000 South Asian workers will perish before the festivities of the World Cup 2022 even begin. Furthermore, an investigation by The Guardian unearthed shocking maltreatment of Nepalese laborers who have to endure conditions such as lack of water, food, payment and legal identification. With such horrific conditions, one may wonder how these laborers would ever agree to work for such exploitative employers. However, these unsuspecting migrant workers, eager to earn money and support their starving families, are often tricked into signing false contracts. For instance, workers are given one contract before arriving to Qatar, but upon arrival, they are given a second, demeaning contract. When news broke of the slave-like treatment of migrant workers, there was subsequent backlash.

In order to mitigate subsequent backlash, Qatar officials stated that they would replace the present kafala system with a more democratic system. The kafala system is a sponsorship system in which workers are bound to an all-powerful and oftentimes boundless employer. In a statement issued by the human rights director of the Qatari interior ministry, Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi, the Colonel professes that “We are going to abolish the kafala system and it will move to the legislative institutions… It will be replaced by a contractual relationship between employer and employee.”

Colonel Abdullah Saqr al-Mohannadi also proposes to modify this system by facilitating workers’ ability to obtain exit visas in order to leave their sponsor in the event of mistreatment or simply just a desire to seek other employment. A substantial portion of these reforms are based on advice from DLA Piper, a London law firm that had been mandated with the task of reviewing the implementation of revised labor laws in Qatar. For instance, DLA Piper proposed that a sponsor would be required to show substantial and viable proof supporting his or her objection to permitting a worker to terminate their labor services. Other reform proposals include implementing sanctions against inadequate employers and engendering a more closely-working relationship between the workers’ home countries and their host country.

Although the proposals by DLA may point to an easy resolution, the chances of Qatar following through on these orders is a topic of question and doubt. One major concern from Amnesty International is that although Qatar proposes modifications to the kafala system, all reforms must ultimately be verified and approved by the shura, or advisory council, that legislates many Emirate nations. According to Amnesty International, the shura is expected to strongly oppose the aforementioned proposed changes to the long-standing kafala system due to feared economic consequences.

For instance, Nicholas McGeehan, an activist from Human Rights Watch, voiced his concern by blatantly stating, “The notion that the kafala system can be abolished by no longer referring to a sponsor but an employer-employee relationship is utterly preposterous.” McGeehan’s statement captures the concern that many proponents of reform in Qatar face.

Is the government going to implement adequate change or attempt to shroud the issue with a simple name change?

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources:New York Times, The Guardian
Photo: The Guardian

 

Migrant Workers in Qatar
The skyline of Qatar’s capital, Doha, showcases gargantuan skyscrapers towering high into the sky. Being the site of the 2022 World Cup, Qatar is pursuing extensive infrastructure projects to prepare for the massive influx of rabid soccer fans eager to cheer on their favorite team.

Much of the infrastructure projects that are underway rely on migrant workers for completion. In recent months, several stories have broken regarding the terrible working conditions these workers face. Some assert that the working conditions are so bad it amounts to forced labor.

Many of these migrant workers hail from a variety of countries but the majority tend to be Nepalese. Facing poverty at home, they venture outside their borders, via recruiting agencies, in order to provide for their families.

Abigail Hauslohner, details the process by which these migrant workers become the victims of an international forced labor scheme in a recent Washington Post article. Many workers must pay recruitment agencies hundreds or even thousands of dollars to secure a job out of the country. Once the journey is made, workers claim their IDs and passports are confiscated upon arrival, making them illegal aliens.

The Guardian reports that many workers accrue massive loans to the recruitment agencies that, due to the lack of payment for their hard work, they are unable to repay. Some of the loans are reported to have interest rates of up to 36%.

The working conditions that many encounter on a day to day basis are deadly. This past summer, it was reported that an average of one Nepalese worker died per day. Over half died from heart attacks associated with heatstroke. The Nepalese embassy stationed in Doha has reported that 44 workers died between June 4 through August 8.

Lacking payment for their work, some workers are growing hungry, reports Amnesty International. 80 workers have revealed they have not been paid for over a year. The company employing them has recently ceased a monthly food stipend of 250 riyals, amounting to just $69. Luckily, a group of Doha residents have taken notice of their situation and began donating food to help.

Facing large debt, possessing no form of identification and an inability to leave the workplace has placed these migrant workers in a dire situation. Holding illegal alien status, without any way to recover their identification, leaves them with no legal protection under Qatari law. They are trapped in a cycle of forced labor.

Some hold out hope that the eventual 2022 World Cup will force a change. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee in charge of preparing for the games states they have taken notice of the problem. The committee insists they will introduce measures to improve labor standards.

Nasser al-Khater, spokesman for the committee, has stated they are in the midst of developing worker welfare standards that come into compliance with international best practices. Contractors will be forced to comply with these standards.

The dichotomy present in the richest per capita country in the world is stark. Qatari citizens enjoy free healthcare, education and electricity while the towering infrastructure is erected by migrant workers suffering under the injustice of forced labor.

Zack Lindberg

Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, Amnesty International
Photo: Vintage 3D

bike
The inaugural World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) – a conglomeration of entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics and technicians in the health space – convened last week in Qatar. As its title suggests, WISH serves as an arena for international delegates to create and implement innovative, nontraditional solutions to pressing issues in global health.

One participant, Londoner Lord Darzi of Denham (chairman of the Institute of Global Innovation at Imperial College), succinctly stated after the announcement of the Summit that “WISH is about action.”

Qatar’s newfound consideration as a hub for frontline innovation- principally through the Qatar Foundation- landed the nation the opportunity to host the prestigious two-day summit event. The Foundation has been on the forefront of the nation’s “visionary national health strategy” and initiated a first-of-its-kind investigation into the healthcare systems of eight major world players, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, India and Qatar. The Global Innovation Diffusion Report, unveiled on the second day of the summit, presented a well-researched report card of how each nation fosters and incorporates innovation to maximize health outcomes for their citizens.

The report noted both victories and areas in need of improvement for the eight nations of study. Each succeeded on a general level in identifying and addressing doctors and involving patients in treatment. Unfortunately, however, every nation but Qatar fell short in matching research-based suggestions with real changes in the health care space. Expert assessments of appropriate technological or practical innovations were ignored for different reasons in each nation.

In Spain and the United Kingdom, the least innovative countries, funds for research and development are scarce. New ideas simply cannot get off the ground because there is no money to put wind in their sails to begin with. Australia, Brazil and South Africa were slightly more successful than their European counterparts, but need to improve incentives for academics and policymakers who spread innovation. The United States and India showed a consistent, but small, gap between the ideal and reality.

The thorough case study concluded that innovation is most successfully spurred in the United States when incorporated into (or alongside) insurance and the accompanying payment system. Incidentally, the report identified the rollout of Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) programs as a major success for the U.S. in terms of innovation implementation. PCMH programs encourage primary care providers to tailor payments around patient outcomes and foster cooperation between medical and social services.

Moving forward, hot areas of progress for medical innovation will likely include: the application of mobile technology to share and store medical information; policymaking that encourages clinicians to adopt new ways of working; mobilization of resources to allow coordination between researchers and clinicians; and the development of an “innovation culture” and leadership among front line health care professionals.

Delegates representing our nation will undoubtedly confer about these recent findings and carve out a designated space for innovation in discussions touching on future policies, programs and technologies.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: Gulf News, NCQA, PR News Wire, World Innovation Summit for Health: Home, World Innovation Summit for Health: Global Diffusion
Photo: Vintage 3D

5_Richest_Countries
With the holidays quickly approaching, everyone is sharing what they are grateful for. Family, friends and jobs top the lists of many individuals. And the holiday spirit has many people anxious to give to the less fortunate. In the global arena, many developed nations possess greater resources than their less fortunate neighbors. Here’s a list of the five richest countries and their five poorest neighbors:

Richest Countries

1. Qatar

The Arab state is the largest exporter of oil and natural gas with a GDP per capita (PPP) of $105,091. It only has 2 million residents.

2. Luxembourg

Despite its small size, Luxembourg is the second richest country in the world with a GDP (PPP) of $79,593.

3. Singapore

Located in southern Asia, the country has a GDP (PPP) of $61,567 and a population of 5 million residents.

4. Norway

The country has a GDP (PPP) of $56,663, earning the majority of its wealth from petroleum, natural gas and fresh water reserves. It is also the least dense European country.

5. Brunei

The country boasts a GDP (PPP) of $55,111 with most of its revenue derived from its reserves of crude oil and natural gas.

Poorest Countries

1. Eritrea

Located near the Horn of Africa, the country has a GDP (PPP) of $792.13. It has a fast growing economy compared to its neighbors.

2. Liberia

The West African country’s instability due to past civil wars has caused the GDP (PPP) to stagnate at $716.04.

3. Burundi

Violence in the region plays a dramatic role in the country’s economy which has a GDP of $648.58. Inhabitants of the region often face corruption, poor education and AIDS.

4. Zimbabwe

Like many African countries, Zimbabwe’s economy has taken continual hits. The country currently has a GDP (PPP) of $589.46 and attracted attention in the past due to human rights issues in the past.

5. Democratic Republic of Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo currently has the lowest GDP with $394.25 per capita. The second largest country in Africa has potential to greatly benefit from its mineral reserves and land for agriculture but its economy continues to be effected by violence in the region.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: Top 10 Always, The Richest
Photo: Trulia

Migrant Workers Doha Qatar 2022 Labor Conditions
Conventionally, the bestowal of pride that follows a host nomination for a future World Cup invigorates a country; in Qatar, it has nearly broken it. The working conditions of those preparing for the 2022 event, most of whom are migrant workers, have exceeded the already poor conditions of such labor in the Gulf States, causing shock throughout the world.

In the past few weeks alone, dozens of Nepalese laborers have died, while countless others face terrible abuses on a daily basis. Over the broader span of this past summer, the Nepalese workforce in Qatar averaged one death a day, many of which were due to heart attacks, rare occurrences in young men. Tellingly, the condition of the Nepalese—the largest labor group in Qatar—tells a greater story of all workers: that of modern-day slavery.

In an interview with The Guardian, one worker described the precariousness of his situation: “I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless. I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

Tellingly, in addition to the continual threat of death, other injustices have characterized their stay in Qatar. For example, many laborers allege that their wages have been withheld for months in order to stop them from running away. Some employers even steal passports and ID cards, making it impossible for workers to obtain the legal or political aid they deserve.

Despite the slyness of many Qatar labor schemes, some are just basic infringements of human rights. Many laborers have recalled being refused water, despite working in some of the world’s most brutal heat. Such cruelty directed at largely Nepalese laborers underscores the broader context of the 2022 World Cup: one in which an extremely wealthy country exploits a vulnerable labor force from an extremely indigent one for material aims.

However, after the recent media attention scrutinizing the World Cup labor scheme, Qatar has responded by promising swift action. Hassan Al Thawadi, the head organizer of Qatar’s World Cup, said his organization was dutifully addressing international concerns.

In a recent interview, he stated with avidity: “It’s not a World Cup being built on the blood of innocents. That is unacceptable to anybody.”

The intended efficacy of labor reform remains, until now, unseen. The world urges Qatar to quickly and adequately address the gross human rights injustices being done in the name of sport and materialism, setting an example by valuing human life, regardless of one’s background or occupation. If these issues are not addressed, the 2022 World Cup will reflect the horrors of Qatar rather than its immense beauty.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post, BBC
Photo: The Guardian

Qatar FIFA 2022 World Cup Migrant Workers Exploited
The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be hosted in Qatar and the construction on hotels and stadiums has already begun. This internationally-renowned sporting event will boost Qatari infrastructure, economy, and national spirit. However, groups like the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) claim that thousands of migrant workers will die before construction is finished, and have called for policies that will prevent the exploitation of these workers.

Many migrant workers from countries like India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have been entering Qatar for employment, joining the already 1.2 million migrant workers present in this country. Although many migrant workers are needed to prepare Qatar for the World Cup, the current system of employment may mean that many of these workers will never return home.

Unless reforms are made, 600 migrant workers a year could die on building sites due to harsh working conditions and lack of safety protocols.

Recently, 30 migrant workers fled to the Nepalese Embassy in Doha, Qatar to escape these conditions. They reported having their passports withheld in order to prevent them from fleeing, being denied water and a salary, and being forced to work in intolerable heat. Some equated such hardships with modern-day slavery. In addition, workers have been found living in unsanitary and crowded conditions, resulting in illness.

Employees that complain are often fired, with no means of returning home or finding more work. With passports and salary withheld, most migrant workers have no choice but to continue to work in such conditions.

Nepalese migrant workers aren’t the only workers turning to their embassy for help. Thousands more have complained to the Indian embassy in Qatar. According to the Indian ambassador, more than 700 Indian workers have already lost their lives in these deleterious working conditions.

The ITUC stresses the need for significant changes in workplace sanitation and safety. Otherwise, the organization estimates that at least 4,000 migrant workers will lose their lives by the 2022 World Cup.

These working conditions come as a surprise to many, as Qatar is the world’s richest nation in regards to income per capita. The country is expected to spend over $100 billion on infrastructure, hotels, and other facilities for the World Cup alone.

The ITUC has also commented on the need for FIFA to send a strong message to the Qatari government on how this system of modern-day slavery is unacceptable.

Rahul Shah

Sources: Middle East Online, Opposing Views, The Guardian
Photo: BBC