Last Friday, SPARK was delighted to sign an extended partnership with the Education Above All (EAA) programme, Al Fakhoora, offering higher education opportunities to young Syrian refugees, granting access to scholarships, undergraduate qualifications and vocational training to a total of 6,345 students in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. This total includes students that benefited from previous support from an alliance of partners; EAA, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and EU MADAD. “This gives us the opportunity to provide refugee students with higher education. They will be eventually part of reconstructing Syria” said Yannick du Pont, Director of SPARK, during his speech at the signing.

The signing was part of the Distinguished Speaker Series seminar at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, on May 19th, called ‘Education, Law and the SDGs’. Her Highness Queen Maxima of the Netherlands attended in her capacity as Special Advisor of the UN Secretary General on Financial Inclusion and Her Higness Sheika Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, leading UN Sustainable Development Advocate and founder of Education Above All (EAA), opened the event. She argued that education is a vital tool in peace-building and conflict prevention. “Now, more than ever, we need to reassert our common goal – to protect education during war; to provide education even in conflict and insecurity. This is when it is most difficult, and yet most urgent, to build sustainable peace.”

During the event outstanding speakers, such as Forest Whitaker (Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative), Fatou Bensouda (Chief, ICC Prosecutor) and Kevin Watkins (CEO, Save the Children, UK) spoke with one voice, warning that current levels of conflict and humanitarian crisis pose a grave threat to the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. They sought to strengthen the current global governance system, which is failing to protect education in conflict, and to prevent targeted attacks on children, teachers and schools. Secondly, they advocated for more effective mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible for attacks on children, teachers and schools. Finally, they called on investors to prioritise quality education as a vital tool for post-conflict recovery, to ensure sustainable peace.

The SPARK/EAA extended partnership takes a unique approach to higher education by offering university degrees alongside leadership development and economic empowerment opportunities.  The programme will allow SPARK to increase the number of scholarships for Syrian refugees in the region considerably. The Director of SPARK also explained, alongside Farooq Burney, Executive Director of Al Fakhoora, that by enabling these students to access higher education and student support services, they are empowered to help rebuild their country during and after the war. The scholarships cover a range of studies relevant to the reconstruction of Syria, such architecture, technology and psychology.