She fought war, cancer, blindness - all for education

She fought war, cancer, blindness - all for education
Naida Kardas and Charif Hamidi at a session during the Education Interface Exhibition and Middle East Youth Forum in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi - An invite from a top Abu Dhabi school brought her to the UAE.

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Ashwani Kumar

Published: Sat 5 May 2018, 9:59 PM

While she was four years old, she was deprived of the right to education in a war-torn country, where she witnessed half of her family being executed. Then, at 21, as a refugee in the US, she had to win over cancer and blindness to continue her passion for education.
Those painful deprivations led Abu Dhabi-based Bosnian expat Naida Kardas to a mission to create a world where all children have access to quality education. Founder of Education 4.0, a non-profit organisation headquartered in Morocco, Kadras, along with her husband Charif Hamidi, is on a mission to prepare children for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
"I was only four when I was taken hostage and imprisoned in an elementary school that was turned into a concentration camp. I had books all around me but wasn't allowed to touch anything. It was due to the war, my religion and my name that I was deprived of my right to attend school. I witnessed many atrocious acts of torture, rape and murder. I watched half of my family getting executed. I remember a day when I saw a guard's daughter read a book. I wondered how it will be to escape reality for a tiny moment. This deprivation intensified my passion for education," Naida said, recollecting a childhood marred by Bosnian War.
"I carried this passion with me to the US where, as a refugee, I attended school and learned English. I graduated with a bachelor's degree while working at a Fortune 500 company. Then, I began my master's programme in education."
However, there were more tests remaining for her. "At 21 years, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to stop studies for a while." With help of therapies, Kardas managed to beat cancer. However, a few months later she suffered an ischemic stroke and lost her vision.
"I was completely blind. I underwent therapies and remained positive in that period," she said, noting that she used to recollect her days in the concentration camp to hold on to hope. "A war couldn't tame my spirits and I wasn't going to give in to either cancer or blindness.
"Miraculously, after four months, my vision came back. I completed my master degree in education sciences. I began to work with refugee schools in the US. I worked with the Department of Education in Arizona before coming to the UAE."

Coming to UAE

An invite from a top Abu Dhabi school brought her to the UAE. It was here that she accidentally met Charif Hamidi, a Moroccan investment banker and strategy consultant. 
"We are very different people from different backgrounds but we have one thing in common - our passion for education," she said about her husband Hamidi. "I came to advice on education policy and design curriculum for the new school.
"My mother fell sick and I had to fly to Morocco. I saw children on the streets.
We applied the research outputs to tutor the kids. From barely recognising numbers, the kids went on to do simple addition and subtraction. A few days later, there was a purposeful knock on the door and there were some 30 kids wanting to play mathematics. We realised that we found our purpose in life - to prepare kids for the Fourth Industrial Revolution." It was how Education 4.0 was born in 2016.
Now, the couple is on a mission to create a world where all children have access to quality education. "Our purpose in life is simple: We want to provide access to quality education, prepare youth for Fourth Industrial Revolution and labour markets and break free from this high-cost education models," the couple added.

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