The relevance for children and youth in Saudi Arabia to be engaged with social and financial education is high. During a visit this month it appeared that a number of key organisations in this country can implement Aflatoun and Aflateen. Dr Osman Nour, from Arab Urban Development Institute (AUDI) is a well known figure in Aflatoun’s worldwide network. Dr Nour played a key role in starting the Aflatoun programme in Yemen. He convinced me of the potential of launching the Aflatoun programme in Saudi Arabia and I visited the country to kick start developments to get the country live in 2012. On Saturday 2 June, they organised a seminar attended by key players from Saudi educational institutes and foundations. Saudi Arabia has over 26 million citizens and in spite of the oil income wealth disparities are still significant, unfortunately. The country benefits from excellent infrastructure, medical facilities and schools. One of the main issues the country facing Saudi Arabia and indeed any country all over the world is to ensure sufficient work opportunities are available to Saudi youth entering the labour market. Aflateen could play a role in that, the most important outcome of the well attended workshop.
A visit to the Al-Nahda Women’s Philanthropic Society proved to be very inspiring to me. This organisation, established in Riyadh in 1962, aims to empower Saudi women through the preservation of traditional Saudi handicrafts. The Al-Nahda Women’s Philanthropic Society has successfully assisted underprivileged women in improving their way of life and that of their families. Al-Nahda also took the lead in launching the Down Syndrome Schools, purchase and transfer housing ownership basis, promoting social integration and literacy programs. Aflatoun and Aflateen can be of great value to the growing group of women who start working in manufacturing and logistics companies. It helps them entering the labour market well prepared as the programme strengthens their self-esteem. Moreover, promoting saving practices and behaviors within Saudi youth will better prepare them for financial decisions in their adult lives.
Another pleasant surprise is the extensive work of the Saudi Capital Markets Authority. Mr Abdullah Saeed Alkahtani, its director, is passionate about financial education to children and he and his team have developed an impressive programme throughout the country. Aflatoun can learn a lot from their work in engaging children and youth through cartoons, social media and in festivals. The road show for children is a fantastic way to introduce the subject of saving in a playful and exciting manner. You can visit their website www.smart-investor.net (Arabic only) and engage interactively with the programme. The Saudi Capital Markets Authority is now also exploring ways to use mobile phones as a tool to spread information to children and more and more teachers are volunteering to introduce the subject of financial education in schools. Aflatoun and the Saudi Capital Markets Authority are exploring a collaboration which would built on the work already achieved and strengthen it thanks to Aflatoun’s social component.
Thanks to these partners, the Aflatoun programme can soon be introduced in Saudi Arabia. AUDI offered to organize a first training to launch the pilot as early as September 2012, so Saudi Arabia could be one of the next ‘Aflatoun countries’.