Category: Wael


How many schools does Wael operate?

A few years ago, Wael addressed the faculty in the ASK auditorium in order to dispel rumors that he was affiliated with what is now known as AUS (The American United School of Kuwait). At the time of its founding, it was initially called the American University School of Kuwait. This is because of its affiliation with the American University of Kuwait. The name was rejected because it is not a university, and so it was renamed The American United School of Kuwait (keeping similar initials). Here is a photograph showing the original signage.

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A digital mockup from the KIPCO newsletter. (Source)

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So we did some research. Wael is a founding member of the American University School of Kuwait:

“AUK is governed by a 15-member Board of Trustees. The Executive Committee is composed of the three AUK co-founders: Sheikha Dana Nasser Sabah Al-Sabah, Mr. Meshal Ali, and Mr. Wael Abdul-Ghafoor and is particularly active and interacts with the President on a regular basis. It is an impressive Board strongly dedicated to the mission of the institution and well positioned to advance the university’s objectives including the financing of a larger campus. Consistent with Kuwaiti law, which does not have U.S.- styled “nonprofit” corporations, AUK is operated by the United Education Company, a privately held concern owned by the co-founders.”


Wael’s name also comes up in WikiLeaks.

We said WikiLeaks. Here is the source.

This is from a meeting he attended with Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah. She is also mentioned in the above quote as a founder of AUK.

“Classified By: Ambassador Richard LeBaron for reasons 1.4 (b), (d).

1. (C) President of the American University of Kuwait (AUK) Dr. Shafiq Al-Ghabra recently invited the Ambassador to meet the chair of the university’s board of trustees Shaykha Dana Nasser Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, granddaughter of the Prime Minister. Accompanying her at the June 13 meeting were Dr. Al-Ghabra and two other investors/board members/founders of AUK — Wael Abdul Ghafoor (well-known to the Embassy as head of the American School of Kuwait) and Mishaal Al-Ali (a businessman/major AUK investor). Shaykha Dana turned out to be a relaxed, informal interlocutor. She met the Ambassador in her office at the University, dressed informally in western-style slacks and blouse. Now in her mid-thirties, she said that she had spent a year as a student at the University of Indiana, a year she characterized as equivalent to or better than the three years she spent at Kuwait University. She was dismissive of the quality of education provided currently at Kuwait University and clearly delighted to be leading a private effort to supply a U.S.-style liberal arts education. She and her associates commented on the difference in student behavior at AUK when compared to public institutions. For example, students are much more likely to stay around the campus and socialize after hours. They are more open to discussion, and gender barriers are greatly reduced. During the discussion with the Ambassador, Shaykha Dana and her partners talked about plans for a military academy (for troubled students) that they were considering placing on Failaka Island and indicated an interest in pursuing private options for a special needs school. Dr. Al-Ghabra told the Ambassador later that Shaykha Dana does not get involved in the day-to-day operations of AUK. He meets with her for about an hour a week and briefs her on major financial issues. She also takes an interest in building projects and campus expansion plans.”

We know that both AUK and AUS are owned by the United Education Company (UEC). We can find proof of this in the following photographs (Source 1 | Source 2):

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Given that ASK has transitioned from referring to Wael Abdul Ghafoor as the “owner” to “Chairman and CEO,” we wonder if ASK is owned by United Education Company, as well?

Well, it turns out that Wael is a board member of Al Rayan Holding Company. Al Rayan Holding Company owns the following schools in Kuwait (Source):

  1. International British School
  2. Kuwait International English School
  3. New Pakistan International School
  4. Fahaheel Al Watanieh Indian Private School

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Al Rayan Holding Company is 82% owned by, United Education Company. So Wael Abdul Ghafoor is on the Board of Trustees of a company that owns 4 competitors to school. That company, is in turn, owned by another school that owns a direct competitor – the American United School of Kuwait.

This is important. This shows that Wael is actively invested in direct competitors with ASK. This is a gigantic conflict of interest, and it leads to a lot of speculation about the current state of affairs at the school. We have previously encouraged transparency from the school. We would like to reiterate this encouragement – transparency is the key to increased morale and the improvement of outcomes at the American School of Kuwait.


A full interview with Wael.

This article was published by International Finance Coporation (link). We think that it would be worth your time to read the article in its entirety. We have not changed the content of the report, but we will used bold italics to add emphasis.


An IFC Reports Interview with

Mr. Wael A. Abdul Ghafoor, Owner,

American School of Kuwait (ASK), Kuwait

On the

21st February 2011

For our special report on Kuwait

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IFC REPORTS: I would like to start off by discussing Kuwait’s education system. This originates back to 1912 when the first school was opened and then in 1935 it came under state control. Education along with health are two of the main pillars of socioeconomic development and they are viewed as key performance indicators by investors. Given the recent changes in Kuwait, namely the unanimous approval of the development plan, what is your opinion on the importance of education to building human capital and developing Kuwaiti entrepreneurs to ensure that this development plan is a success?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: You cannot build a pillar without concrete and education is the main foundation of every country.


IFC REPORTS: Please tell us a bi about the history of the American School of Kuwait


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: Back in 1964 there were a lot of International Oil Companies in Kuwait with many expatriate workers who wanted a school for their kids. So the parents opened the school with the help of a few Kuwaitis. At that time, they had maybe about 400 students and only a handful of Kuwaitis up until 1972. Then a privatisation law came into force which meant all companies in Kuwait had to be sponsored or owned by Kuwaitis. At that time I was in the school and the school wanted to close, so my father took over the school and funded I then took over the school in 1992.


IFC REPORTS: Please explain to us the links you have with the U.S.?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: We have a purely American curriculum. We are associated with the U.S. State Department and accredited by an American Accreditation firm. The U.S. Government either owns a school or associates with a school in every country over the world and here they are associated with ASK. All the big American companies are here, including the military and this is their first choice; as Americans like to come here.


IFC REPORTS: How does ASK motivate its students to develop competitively on an international basis?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: That goes back to the students. We have AP high school courses and a lot of students succeed in these programs and they get accepted in Ivy League schools in the U.S. 90% of our students go to American universities and colleges, and the other 10% have started to go to Kuwait because we have an American university here in Kuwait and there are other American universities in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and the Emirates. We have approximately 150 teachers from the U.S. and 95% of our academic employees are from the U.S.


IFC REPORTS: Why do you predominantly employ American teachers and what benefits does this have?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: We are the American School of Kuwait so we cannot have an American school with an American curriculum taught by Kuwaitis. We need to have American graduates with an American teaching certification. I have three Kuwaiti ex‐students that went to ASK, graduated and went to the U.S. to get their teaching certificate and now they are teaching here so their mentality and know‐how is all American based.


IFC REPORTS: Taking the interview to a slightly more personal level, you took over in How important is it for you to carry on the legacy of your father?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: It is very important. I have a special attachment to the school. I was a student once upon a time here. The school has had a nice atmosphere since the 1960s and the students do not forget each other over the years. There is a nice union of ASK graduates, and this is very important for me. If ASK is succeeding, then Wael is succeeding, and if ASK drops, then Wael drops. It is a part of me. It is not the money or the advertising.


IFC REPORTS: In terms of your management philosophy, what motivates you and how do you try to transmit this to your staff?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: Educators have to be real; they have to teach from their hearts. A human being is a human being, so you have good teachers and you have bad teachers. But the majority is excellent. When we invest and go to the U.S. for two to three months and recruit at fairs, we hope that the teachers are as good as what we read about them in their resumes. It is not an easy job. If one of those teachers fails us, we have to send them all the way back to the States and we have to pay them. You cannot go wrong with education – if you have one bad teacher teaching 100 students, you have to make a decision. Money is not important – you have to send them back and recruit another teacher, and this is difficult sometimes because you do not find teachers on the street, you have to go over to the States and find them.


IFC REPORTS: Are American teachers interested in coming to Kuwait?
WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: Yes they are. At the moment they have no problems, but sometimes there are political issues that scare them, like in 2003 when Iraq was liberated when Saddam was overthrown. That was difficult. We had to go outside the U.S. at that time to Australia and South Africa to find teachers from there because American teachers were told not to go to the Middle East because it was a red zone. But for the moment, it is clear.


IFC REPORTS: Given that we are publishing our report on the 19th June, Kuwait’s true Independence Day, what final message would you like to send to our American readers about the celebrations or ASK?


WAEL A. ABDUL GHAFOOR: I think we are lucky that we have good education in Kuwait, despite all the problems and improvements required. But if someone is serious about education, they can get it. We have the base for it and we definitely provide it in Kuwait in general. We hope that the Government will support us more, because without education, the Government cannot move forward.


IFC REPORTS: It has been an absolute pleasure, thank you very much.