May 30, 2016

SPARK participates at the World Humanitarian Summit

WHS 2016

SPARK at the World Humanitarian Summit

The recent World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which has been four years in the making, was a good platform for SPARK to communicate the importance that higher education and employment has for young refugees and displaced persons. There were over 5,000 participants including Minister Ploumen, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation and Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, chairperson of the Qatar based Education Above All Foundation.

SPARK participated through an information stand at the fair and participation in several side events such as a Hackathon by Microsoft as part of our role in the Solutions Alliance working group on engaging the private sector.

The SPARK team invited four current scholarship students to the summit so they could share their experiences on the impact the scholarships has had on their lives with both Her Highnedd Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and Minister Ploumen. Both were enthusiastic about SPARK’s work and they took their time to meet the students. Also joining the group were three rectors from several Universities from the south east of Turkey that have been taking in many Syrian refugee students. These are Prof. Dr. Hasan Kaya from Mustafa Kemal University, Hatay; Prof. Dr. Mehmet Yavuz COŞKUN from University of Gaziantep; and Prof. Dr. Ramazan TAŞALTIN Harran University, Sanliurfa.

Meetings with the students

Among the visiting students were Khaled Faraj (27) and Hadil Tarrab (28) both from Aleppo. After arriving in Turkey to flee the war they are both now business administration students at Gaziantep University. This is possible thanks to the University having recently established full bachelor programmes in Arabic language, enabling access to education for the many Syrians that speak insufficiently Turkish or English to study in those languages.

Khaled wants to develop his experience in administration and management over the next few years and has been working at the Syrian Centre for Prosthetics to help victims of the war. He hopes to return to Syria to help develop institutions which he sees that the country really needs. Hadil has been working whist studying at an NGO and hopes to use what she is learning during her studies and at work for the future reconstruction of her country.

A new programme

SPARK’s recent partnership with Al Fakhoora, a programme of the Education Above All Foundation, has helped SPARK to place an additional 800 full time refugee students into scholarships from Septemeber 2016. More importantly so, SPARK will be able to include leadership and economic empowerment programmes into the scholarships. Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser met with the students to discuss the programme, their personal experiences. Especially the importance of enabling access to higher education for women was emphasized by Her Highness.

The students also met with Dutch Minister Ploumen, who has been a strong supporter of the scholarship programme in 2015, enabling SPARK to place 1517 refugee students into higher education since November 2015. The students shared their experiences, told her about their lives and the SPARK Scholarship programme and how it has helped them, but also making various valuable recommendations for improvement. The discussion especially focussed on the need to help student find jobs or create their own enterprise after graduation. The students also vocalised their need for dormitories and extra language courses (Turkish, English) to support their integration in Turkish society.

Over the coming years SPARK hopes to create additional partnerships with other supporters to enrol many more Syrian refugees into higher and vocational education courses and is now gearing-up for the 2016/17 scholarship intake in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq/KRG, as well as supporting higher vocational education in Syria.