February 12, 2016

Scholarships bring hope to displaced Syrian youth in the region

On February 3 SPARK started has signed on a programme which supports about 600 young Syrian refugees through four years of higher education in the region. The contract was signed together with Al Fakhoora, a programme within the Education Above All Foundation, under the motto Higher Education 4 Syrians (HES). The Qatari foundation pledged their financial support on the eve of the international London conference co-hosted with Germany, Kuwait, Norway, and the United Nations which called for international support for Syrians.

Rebuild Syria

This joint programme is part of SPARK’s larger goal to support 10.000 Syrian youth through higher education in order to empower them to re-build their country during and after the war. Increasing the number of scholarships available to Syrians will improve their access to education and – crucially – half of these must be for young women. Minister Ploumen from the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs  said: ‘In order to rebuild Syria in the future,  the country will need well educated young people in a range of sectors, for example in architecture, technology, agriculture and health.’ The scholarships are for students to follow academic bachelors and can include students who do not have formal high school degree but are keen to learn.

 Recognition of refugees

Currently in the surrounding lands of Syria 400.000 refugees have been rehoused, with a high representation of youth among these numbers between the ages of 18-24. Less than 5% of these have access to higher education while very few countries allow them to work legally.  Minister Ploumen recently stated that ‘it is very important that this group of refugees is properly recognised as currently only a few of them have access to education in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Education and work will play a key role in helping Syrians to continue to give meaning to their life while they are forced to flee from their own land.’

Higher Education 4 Syrians

SPARK’s mission is to develop higher education and entrepreneurship to empower young, ambitious youth to lead their conflict affected societies into prosperity and is already active for 15 years in the conflict and development sector with offices in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Kurdistan, Libya, Tunisia, Somalia and South Sudan. To date SPARK has support over 1.500 young Syrians to access higher education giving special attention to marginalised groups, including youth, women, returning refugees and Internationally Displaced People (IDP).

The Higher Education 4 Syrians (HES) programme will use the educational frameworks within the host countries, so teaching will be given in universities across the MENA region. Yannick du Pont, director of SPARK explains ‘We are extremely pleased with the support from the EAA, it means we can support more Syrian migrants into higher education and do our part to bring stability to the region.’ The deal brings SPARK a step closer to achieving their goal of 10,000 scholarships.

 Al Fakhoora

The programe also builds on Al Fakhoora’s success of empowering youth in Gaza through higher education. Since its launch in 2009 their programme has successfully enrolled approximately 600 students into universities in Gaza and provided international scholarships to 30 students in specializations that contribute to the rebuilding of the country. The deal with SPARK launches their expansion programme into Syria.

Education Above All (EAA) is a global initiative founded in 2012 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser. EAA’s aim is to build a global movement that contributes to human, social and economic development through quality education and other welfare programmes and initiatives. With a particular focus on areas affected by poverty, conflict and disaster, EAA champions the needs of children and youth and empower them to be active members of their communities.

Minister Ploumen has emphasised how the deal offers an example of how European and Arabic states can work together to solve the migration problem and hopes more donors will follow.