A Swiss citizen born in Geneva, Omar can be defined as a social entrepreneur involved in “positive economy”. Co-owner of the Swiss Hotel group Manotel and President and major shareholder of Finial Capital SA, he has always been involved in private equity, real estate and hedge funds. However, the financial crisis of 2008 reshaped Omar’s vision of the world and convinced him of the increasing need for society to create tangible, socially responsible projects with sustainable values. His investments cover fields that have a clear impact on society such as real estate, life sciences, sustainable energy and cultural heritage. Education has always been particularly dear to Omar’s heart and an ideal field to implement his values. A staunch supporter of quality instruction, he has been funding graduate and undergraduate education programmes for university students at Webster University in Geneva and serves on the Advisory Board of the University of St. Louis, Missouri. Furthermore, he created, funded and taught a junior creative entrepreneurship programme for teenagers at the Institut Florimont in Geneva. This passion coupled with his creative skills, financial expertise and an ability to execute, naturally led him to found Swiss Education Partners, to support education projects in the UAE and its first flagship project, the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai. A firm believer in creative thinking and entrepreneurship, Omar strived to create a financially sustainable business with social implications in Dubai. “I have always wanted to build a school, I took my inspiration from my mentor in education, Francis Clivaz, the founder of the Collège du Léman in Geneva, and my passion for children,” says Omar. A partnership with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) reinforced his vision to build a sustainable school for future generations on an eco-friendly campus. His idea to bring Swissness – Switzerland and its values – to Dubai is not only visionary, but today it is grounded in reality. The Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai, will be the first in the GCC to provide a sustainable school environment, a unique boarding experience for which Switzerland is internationally recognised, and above all a teaching methodology enabling students to achieve their highest potential as human beings and members of society.
A Vision for Education
“Having been educated in the Collège du Léman, Geneva and in the French Lycée of Los Angeles, both bilingual international high schools, I developed a fundamental spirit of openness. I am a firm believer in cultural diversity and the pedagogical benefits of bilingual education”. In line with an excellent curriculum – “a given” – the bilingual approach and cultural aspect is central to my vision. My mission is to introduce Swiss International education to Dubai, hence offering diversity in the education landscape, where a strong spirit of openness and cultural diversity are evidenced everyday by the influx of ever growing number of international people which is reminiscent of my home town Geneva, one of the most international cities in the world”.
The Values central to the vision
“The Swiss value excellency and flexibility in their educational system especially in terms of career choices. The Swiss educational system offers less academic students alternatives in vocational programmes alongside the Matura. Swiss education is international in essence. The International Baccalaureate, invented in Geneva in 1968, is the proof that Switzerland has an international approach to education. My ambition is to help students become global citizens with an open mind on the world, an ability to respect their external environment as well as their own nature. My whole pedagogical strategy is symbolized by SISD’s four rings of values: Bilingual, Excellence, Sustainability, Together.”
“It is meaningful on a personal level to wake up in the morning to a project that is contributing to one’s community and to society in general, but also directly to my own children. I have built this school and this bilingual curriculum for them to maintain their mother tongue. My two youngest children attend this school and have followed its creation from the very beginning. They are growing up in a world which is increasingly virtual and this school should remind them every day that it takes hard work and real physical efforts to build something real and not just press “enter” on a key board and order something online. This is self-satisfying and it keeps me motivated when facing the challenges associated with building an educational institution. Both, the infrastructure of the school’s energy-efficient campus and turning it into a major cultural venue, creating ties between all its members, teachers, students and parents is a daily challenge. The school has a higher goal and while we need to have a financially sustainable model to finance the infrastructure I am able to offer scholarships to a large amount of our community members thus having a direct and quantifiable contribution to the community. Dubai is clearly the perfect place to be inspired. When one looks around and sees what has been created from scratch in so little time, you know everything is possible here. Dubai has become and will undoubtedly be cited as an education hub of reference not only in the GCC but in the MENA region in the years to come and the Swiss International Scientific School will contribute to it.”
Omar moved to Dubai in 2010 and is father of six children. An avid sports man, he has won 5 World Championship title in Offshore Racing. You can talk to Omar in English and French.