* The Untold Stories of Qatar Foundation
“Tomorrow was made at Qatar Foundation” summed up Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of Qatar Foundation (QF) told a special panel discussion aired on Qatar TV yesterday on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of QF.
The event explored the impact of QF on a nation as the organisation's very first days were revisited by those instrumental in turning a vision into reality.
The Untold Stories of QF saw Sheikha Moza, who envisioned and founded QF in 1995 with the support of His Highness the Father Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, give unprecedented insight into why QF was established and the belief that made it happen.
Joined by the central figures in QF’s establishment 26 years ago, the panel recounted the plans, challenges, goals, and milestones that lined the path to creating a globally unique ecosystem of education, science and research, and community development.
“Our belief in the success of Qatar Foundation as a project was deep-rooted, despite the challenges and curves that we faced at the beginning of our journey more than 25 years ago,” she said. “In 2005, on the day Education City opened, we promised that tomorrow would be here. And, indeed, tomorrow was made at Qatar Foundation.
“We never looked at Qatar Foundation’s projects, centres, and initiatives as being there to serve a specific geographical area. We thought of it as Arab-Islamic renaissance project, based in Qatar, to promote sustainable development in the Arab world, by creating positive change from an academic, research, and societal perspective.”
She spoke of how QF’s first school, Qatar Academy – established in 1996 – was born of “two dimensions.” “The first came from my role as a mother who had concerns about the education of my children, and the second was national, reflected by our role in the development of society,” she told the discussion, filmed at QF’s former headquarters.
“At the time, I realised we were facing a national challenge related to education, and we needed to make a radical change in the educational system by providing advanced, quality education – based on the logical analysis and rational deduction that were central to previous Arab civilisations and applied in Western civilisations, while at the same time preserving our heritage, language, and national identity.
“The Qatar Academy project grew and developed, and it was necessary to continue the process of progress by building the components of higher education and a culture of scientific research at QF, to support the development of our community.”
Her Highness explained that originally it was planned to establish a single university at QF. “But we asked ourselves about the effectiveness of repeating experiments that had not succeeded in many societies,” she said.
“We recognised that every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, so we started to attract prestigious international universities to Qatar according to the disciplines that met national needs, in order to provide an ecosystem based on creativity and innovation which enables us to cultivate, localise, and reproduce knowledge.
“One of the challenges we faced during our negotiations with international universities was their questions about the academic level of our students. But our belief in human capabilities in Qatar and the Arab region was solid. We knew that if these young people were given the right educational environment and the right opportunities, the world would witness their achievements. And that is what we see today.”
Another challenge facing QF as it evolved, she said was “building a culture of scientific research” in Qatar. “We believe that innovation is the basis of the philosophy of Qatar Foundation.
“We wanted Qatar Foundation to be an incubator for scientists, researchers, and innovators across the Arab world and worldwide, because we recognise that scientific research continues as long as human life continues.”
Among the key figures in QF’s establishment who spoke at event was HE Yousef Hussain Kamal, former Minister of Economy and Finance, who said: “Successful economic models have been built in many developed countries, such as Japan and Singapore, that do not have natural resources but invested in minds.
“Nurturing engineers, physicians, diplomats, and others at Education City was a successful investment idea designed to support the goal of economic development, instead of having a reliance on scholarships abroad for knowledge acquisition. What we needed was to produce knowledge.”
HE Dr Ibrahim al-Ibrahim explained how “the model of the ecosystem we looked to build did not exist anywhere else in the world at that time”, saying: “This increased the challenges and difficulties, as our goal was to attract international universities based on their excellence in the majors we needed – especially the oil and gas industry – to support the development of Qatar.”
The discussion also heard from Dr Sheikha Abdulla al-Misnad, who said: “The QF project, with all its aspirations, was new for us, and for the world. In the beginning, there were some tensions, which is normal when starting a project of such local, regional, and international scale as QF.
“However, the determination of QF’s leadership to achieve the vision for this foundation created a national motivation, so that the vision for QF became our vision as Qataris, and we worked to implement it to support the renaissance of Qatar.”
During the programme, Dr Saif al-Hajri emphasised: “QF has been built on such solid pillars as national identity, supporting the ambitions of our children and the aspirations of their families, and achieving a balance between openness based on global experiences, and preserving our heritage and values.”
And in a specially-recorded video message, Dr Fathy Saoud, the former president of QF, said: “We tirelessly knocked on doors during our negotiations with the most prestigious international universities, to build cooperation and partnerships with them. And we succeeded, until we reached the day when the doors of QF were being knocked upon by well-known international universities keen to establish partnerships with Qatar.”
Meanwhile, AbdulRedha AbdulRahman told the programme – moderated by journalist Khadija Benguenna – how the idea for QF’s Qatar Science & Technology Park innovation hub came from recognising that “the sustainability of education requires the existence of scientific and technological research”.