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THE DISRUPTOR IN EDUCATION

The following article was featured in our recent special edition on “Higher Education in the UAE”.

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Dubai, one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates, has positioned itself as an elite tourism destination, and has also amassed enough educational accolades over the years.

For the first time ever this year, Dubai’s universities were evaluated and published by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority. In the first phase, 17 out of 25 institutions were evaluated; covering 282 programs studied by 16,517 students (51.5% of students enrolled in international branch campuses in Dubai). According to the ratings, three institutions achieved 5-star rating, eight institutions achieved 4-star rating, three institutions received 3-star rating, two achieved 2-star rating and one received a star-rating.

As Dubai continues to innovate and reinvent itself, these trends have been observed in the education sector too. Namely, formative schooling, in the form of Coded Minds, a global iSTEAM & Leadership education platform, that provides alternative learning and ventures into educational possibilities that have so far seen limited support.

Omar Farooqui, the founder and Chief Innovation Officer: who is one of the city’s most formidable figures in the education sector, offers his perspective on transforming the education environment for all children, including those who don’t fit conventional expectations.

A quick search online and the messages from this founder are both inspiring and informative about the subject of alternative education.

“Alternative education is more appropriately places for special needs and gifted children today. I think that a lot more can be done and a lot more should be done by us, and by institutions around the world, and they should play a significant role in terms of funding to provide a stronger basis for these wonderful children to be able to have a more immersive learning experience.

“And one that lends itself to be able to cater to their strengths. I feel that a lot more can be done. If we see a little aspect of a child that is not able to grasp the theory of any subject matter in a regular classroom environment, we always feel that that child is lacking or is not up to par with standards. Whereas, if they are put in an alternative way of learning, I’m certain that that child will accelerate. Every child is unique and every child is so special, so I think we should be able to cater to that,” Farooqui says.

Coded Minds is of the view that many schools still appeared reluctant to accept coding, which is commonplace in most industries and has been said to be the language of the future.

“Both coding and robotics are still taken as vocational rather than mainstream subjects. This needs to change dramatically and quickly. They should become part of the national curriculum,” Farooqui says.

“Even the premium schools in the UAE – despite the fees they are charging – do not meet the international standards these subjects should be taught at.”

Coded Minds integrates project-based and technology-driven learning into any school curriculum. Regardless of the academic board, or the courses being taught in a school, they make the teaching method more interactive and hands-on. Students are able to learn through experiments and technology, instead of memorizing.

The curriculum, which considers global trends, takes students to various corners of the world for real-life experiences. Whether in a faraway forest village in Mozambique, among Aboriginal tribes in Australia or at an orphanage in Nepal, the Global Camp gives students a reality check and prepares them to be the world leaders of tomorrow.

It is this unrivalled pursuit of excellence and innovation that many consider when choosing an ideal school. Farooqui tells us more from Dubai in this interview with FORBES AFRICA:

What gives Coded Minds a competitive edge?

The education sector is globally competitive. There are traditional schools and some, indeed, are outstanding in their traditions of academic excellence; not to mention campuses and some of the newer alternate platforms that are sprouting up everywhere for online learning. No doubt that it is very competitive out there.

However, not many, if any, are doing what Coded Minds is doing. Technology is only a quarter of our offering whether it is learning about it, or even using it. Coded Minds is reinventing education altogether and making it purely and truly 100% project-based and to ensure true delivery of this approach, Coded Minds is also training teachers through our professional development program which is a way of upskilling them to the standards of 21st century pedagogy.

What is on offer for African students at your institution in Dubai?

Coded Minds has been set up globally, as we expand into various geographies around world.  We cater to the local cultures and traditions and, by that, I mean that the overall curriculum and projects that we develop all have a 20% local flavor/aspect infused into them.

This is done by an on-the-ground based curriculum developer who works with the overall global team playing a very crucial role.

African students will be able to experience this through the localized projects that we bring to the core.  It is also up to the empowered teachers, post the professional development program, who assist us to localize the curriculum, and are our eyes and ears as they innovate on their feet. We give them that flexibility in the lessons that are taught.

Many African countries grapple with stagnant national economies, limited job openings for graduates and poor prospects for self-employment. Which Coded Minds programs/projects are offered that can remedy this challenge?

The fact that we hire and train teachers locally to upskill them means in itself that we are creating jobs. Secondly, once they are upskilled, they have the necessary modern day skills to seek other jobs and, better yet, still be entrepreneurs in their own respective rights.

Thirdly, Coded Minds endeavors to play its role in society by offering global opportunities to teachers across our platform as we grow bigger and expand in various geographies to work in other countries as well.

Finally, as we develop our capabilities, as well as our partner network with colleges, universities and corporates, we envision being a supply line to these institutions for candidates who may need it. So basically, an ecosystem is being created by Coded Minds as we speak.

Increasing access to sustainable economic opportunities improves human development. How can African students gain these skills from Coded Minds?

The ecosystem being created by Coded Minds is in itself a sustainable environment of constant opportunities; be it students or be it teachers. Africa, for Coded Minds, will be no different when it comes to those who go through the platform.

Core and peripheral/ancillary skills are equally important and can be acquired through our leadership, or emotional intelligence, or innovation, or entrepreneurship programs. We teach everyone skills that are needed for the 21st century, skills that robots cannot attain.

What innovative approach has Coded Minds taken to the much-lauded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects?

Coded Minds has gone a bold step forward and increased the breadth of STEM and called it iSTEAM (Innovation, Science, Technology, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Mathematics), and have added Leadership as our core offering; and to add to that, we are a 100% project based company. We are constantly adding to our projects and are constantly looking at the latest global trends, as well as problems faced in various countries and are finding practical solutions to those problems.  In addition, we develop projects that will aid the economy by teaching those skills to the children in Africa to help solve the issues in their respective countries at the core of any matter.

Many institutions are still prioritizing rote learning, theory over practice, and outdated curricula that do not respond to the changing needs of the job market, and few to no schools teach entrepreneurship to young people. Are students being prepared for a climate that is specific to Africa?

Majority of the schools out there around the world are still conforming to rote learning and that is simply because the end goal seems to be to studying for tests and exams filled with theories of hundreds of years gone by. As a result, they are under preparing children for modern challenges, be it Africa or any other part of the world.

Coded Minds is a 100% project-based methodology of real world projects that children get their hands on and build from scratch. It encourages children to think critically, logically, be creative, inventive and debate.

Therefore, Coded Minds gets children inquisitive, instead of traditional rote learning where free thinking is not prioritized because every child needs to study for an exam, in which short-term memory of regurgitating theory will be examined, completely detached to the real world that awaits them. At Coded Minds, the ecosystem reflects that real world.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is at the center of the current social discourse. How do Coded Minds approach this subject?

The 4IR is very much at the center of our daily thoughts when it comes to developing our curriculum/subjects/projects/professional development programs.

We have our finger on the pulse at all times, which is why our constantly evolving  projects are key to the skills being attained by students preparing them for the 21st century.

Add to that, the current crop of teachers who require an update to their own respective skills are also benefiting from our professional development programs that will help them remain relevant when it comes to the jobs post the 4IR.

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As Angola Accuses Billionaire Isabel Dos Santos Of Fraud, Her Empire Begins To Unravel

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Isabel dos Santos amassed an empire worth more than $2 billion as the daughter of Angola’s former long-time president. Now it looks like that empire is beginning to crumble.

On Wednesday—as the Attorney General of Angola held a press conference to provisionally charge Isabel dos Santos with embezzlement and money laundering, according to the BBC—a bank in Portugal where she has been a significant shareholder issued a statement saying that Dos Santos’ stake is being sold.

EuroBic, a small privately held bank in Lisbon in which Dos Santos has owned a 42.5% stake, issued a statement on Monday that it was severing its business relationship with Dos Santos and the entities related to her. On Wednesday EuroBic announced that Dos Santos had decided to sell her stake in the bank, which has about $8 billion in assets. Forbes recently valued Dos Santos’ 42.5% stake at around $200 million.

Dos Santos has come under intense scrutiny this past week after a number of media outlets, including the New York Times, the BBC and The Guardian, published articles based on the “Luanda Leaks”—a cache of some 700,000 documents related to Dos Santos’ allegedly corrupt business dealings that were released to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

Dos Santos was appointed to head Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, in 2016, when her father was still president of the country. (He retired in 2017 after ruling Angola for 38 years.)

According to an article in The Guardian, while Dos Santos was heading up Sonangol, she allegedly arranged for a transfer of $57 million on one day in November 2017 from Sonangol’s bank account to a Dubai company, Matter Business Solutions, run by Paula Oliveira, a woman who The Guardian says is apparently a close friend of Dos Santos’.

It turns out that the Sonangol bank account from which the funds were transferred was a EuroBic account. In its statement severing ties with Dos Santos, EuroBic also said that the payments ordered by Sonangol to Matter Business Solutions “respected the legal and regulatory procedures formally applicable . . . between this bank and Sonangol, namely those related to the prevention of money laundering.”

The BBC is reporting that an employee of EuroBic who managed the Sonangol account, Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha, 45, was found dead in Lisbon on Wednesday. A police source told the BBC that “everything points to suicide.”  

Dos Santos issued a statement on Thursday saying, “The allegations which have been made against me over the last few days are extremely misleading and untrue,” and adding that “I am a private businesswoman who has spent 20 years building successful companies from the ground up,” and that “I have always operated within the law and all my transactions have been approved by lawyers, bankers, auditors and regulators.”

Forbes first dug into the murky origins of Isabel dos Santos’ fortune, with help from Angolan investigative journalist Rafael Marques de Morais, in an in-depth investigation in 2013. In late December 2019, an Angolan court issued a freeze of Dos Santos’ assets in Angola—assets that Forbes estimates are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Most of Dos Santos’ fortune—which Forbes estimates at $2.1 billion—lies in assets held outside of Angola, primarily in Portugal.

The natural question: Will other Portuguese companies in which Dos Santos is a shareholder follow in EuroBic’s footsteps?

Kerry A. Dolan, Forbes Staff

Isabel dos Santos features in the 2020 Africa Billionaire’s list in the February issue of FORBES AFRICA. The news of the provisional charges against her for embezzlement and money laundering was unavailable at the time of going to press.  

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Braving Bullets And Death To Write The First Draft Of History

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When everyone else is running away from danger, war reporters hurl their cameras and microphones in the opposite direction to ‘get the story’. Paula Slier, the writer of this piece, is one of them.

War reporting is more a calling than a profession. Why else would an otherwise sane adult throw himself or herself in harm’s way? When everyone else is running away from danger, these men and women are hurling their cameras and microphones in the opposite direction to ‘get the story’. 

This year alone, 19 journalists have been killed in the field. It begs the question if the job is worth the risk? Especially in the age of Twitter, virtual reality and 360 cameras, can – and will – technology replace human coverage on the battlefield?

Wars today make no distinction between combatants and journalists. Long gone are the days that the reporter was perceived as a ‘neutral observer’. Today, increasingly, the media is seen as a legitimate-target in the so-called ‘information war’ that can be as important – if not more – in the fight for public perception, than the battle itself.

During the bloodiest days of the not-so-long-ago Russia-Ukraine conflict, I reported from the frontlines alongside pro-Russia fighters.

I wore a bullet-proof jacket with the word ‘PRESS’ emblazoned across it. Instead of offering me some degree of protection as one would expect, the soldiers asked me to remove the jacket as they believed the Ukrainian military would deliberately target me because I was a journalist. I was thus making it unsafe for them too.

Award-winning Italian war reporter, Fausto Biloslavo, has covered most of the conflicts of the last 35 years. He believes this shift in how journalists are viewed came about after ‘September 11’.

“Insurgents no longer considered us witnesses to be respected but cannon fodder for propaganda or ransom. Nowadays, in any war, they always think that you are a spy and not a real journalist,” he says.

It doesn’t help that wars themselves have become more difficult to cover. The rise of non-state actors like paramilitary and terror groups means that, for years, swathes of Syria and Iraq were off-limits to reporters.

The only way a journalist could reach there was by being ‘embedded’ – attached – to an army unit. No wonder then that we are seen by some groups as unobjective and pushing a particular view. It is very hard to travel with the Kurdish army, like I did in northern Iraq, and be perceived by those fighting the Kurds as neutral.

Amitabh Revi, associate editor of Strategic News International, a niche Indian online news service, has had his fair share of warzones. He believes that some wars are simply too dangerous to cover.

“It’s always a calculated risk. When I ask myself why I do it, it’s to be the eyes and ears for those who can’t be there and frankly, just to be there myself. Social media and citizen reporting are important, but for sustained, comprehensive coverage, one still needs a professional.”

Small-sized digital equipment has seen the rise of the so-called ‘accidental journalist’. These often young, unqualified reporters venture into danger zones and take risks that their more seasoned colleagues never would. The trend became so prevalent that major news organizations took the unprecedented step of announcing they would not buy footage from freelancers reporting in areas they deemed too dangerous to send their own staff reporters to.

Biloslavo has lost five close friends to conflict.

The first was Almerigo Grilz, a kind of older brother to him. He was killed on May 19, 1987, in Mozambique. filming a battle between Renamo rebels and Frelimo government troops. Grilz made the mistake to move slightly from behind the protection of a termite mound to film the rebel retreat and was likely shot in the neck by a sniper.

“Almost always a journalist dies because he has made a mistake, small or big, conscious or not, as he travels along a dangerous road, photographing a tank around a corner or trusting the local population too much,” believes Biloslavo. And all the training in the world cannot prepare one for that moment. Often it’s instinct that kicks in at the last moment, especially when one must make that critical decision to move forward, stay put, or pull back.


“No article is worth the price of life, but someone has to go and report about wars, the dark side of humanity.

– Fausto Biloslavo

“It’s to be the eyes and ears for those who can’t be there and frankly, just to be there myself.

– Amitabh Revi

But despite all the risks, Biloslavo has no intention of laying down his microphone for good.

“I’ll only stop taking risks when I can no longer bear the weight of the bullet-proof jacket, the helmet, the backpack and am unable to run halfway through the whistle of the bullets,” he says.

“No article is worth the price of life, but someone has to go and report about wars, the dark side of humanity. This means accepting the risks of being killed, injured or kidnapped.”

For Revi, he’ll only stop reporting when wars stop, which implies never.

“The most dangerous situation I was in was during a so-called ‘double tap’ attack in Afghanistan,” he reflects. “The idea (of the perpetrators) is to kill the first responders – medical, security forces and journalists who rush to an attack. Instinct kept me away from the second of the two blasts. So, in short, one needs loads of luck.”

But what happens when that luck runs out? Sometimes, war reporting can feel like a ticking bomb. I narrowly missed a suicide bombing at the entrance to my hotel in Afghanistan. For three weeks, I had met the crew at the same spot every day at 9AM. On the day of the explosion, we had an early interview and left some 15 minutes before the bomb detonated – at the entrance, exactly at 9AM.  

A mixture of faith and fate keeps me going. Faith in the importance of what I’m doing – writing the first draft of history – and fate that when my time comes, it’ll come, but not a second before.

As the US author, Horace Greeley, wrote: “Journalism may kill you, but it will keep you alive while you’re at it.”

– Paula Slier

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Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.

But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?

Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.

That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.) 

In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.) 

Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs. 

And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay. 

None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.  

With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands. 

What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?

They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.  

But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields. 

Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of SuitsForbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.

But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame. 

A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run. 

There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.

And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.

Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.

By  Madeline Berg, Reporter, Forbes Staff and Deniz Çam , Wealth Reporter, Forbes Staff.

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