Throughout the spring semester of 2017, SPARK is hosting a student election for Syrian students studying in the 9 different university campuses and 6 vocational institutions around Lebanon that SPARK works with. The election aims to create a committee of Student Representatives, who will act as a link between students in Lebanon and SPARK. The 15 representatives will be elected for a period of 18 months and will meet with the SPARK team in Lebanon on a monthly basis to discuss the individual plans, expectations and challenges of students from each campus, thus aiding the flow of communication between SPARK and students.

A tense few weeks of promotion of the election caused a buzz around campus grounds and resulted in a fantastic array of candidate videos.  Students were encouraged to send a one-minute video of themselves announcing their candidacy and explaining their plans and priorities. The videos were then posted to Facebook, where friends and peers continued to engage in good-humoured banter and encouragement of each other.

The campaign produced a total of 25 students in the running for the elections; 22 men and 3 women, one of whom is a Lebanese student. The rest of the candidates are all Syrian refugees pursuing their studies in Lebanon.

One candidate said in his video: “I will work harder on outreach so a larger number of deserving Syrian refugees can benefit from the Higher Education programme.” Another candidate described his motive for running in the election: “to give my fellow students the chance to connect to each other, support each other and to speak up about their problems and concerns”. While a female candidate chose to outline her future plans as Student Representative: “I’d like to propose that SPARK start English language courses. I believe that myself and all my fellow students need intensive courses in English so that we can succeed in our studies and later on in our careers.”

After videos were posted online, candidates were given a week to engage with their fellow students to campaign for votes. They used social media channels and communication networks, like Facebook and Whatsapp, to give ‘a closer view’ on their proposals. We, at SPARK, were so impressed by the high level of engagement students achieved; some videos had more than 1.5K views and over 100 comments!

On Wednesday, May 10, students received instructions via SMS on how to vote for their favourite candidates. The voting closed on Sunday May 14, and The Results were announced 3 days later on May 17. Twelve candidates are elected to the Representative Committee and will have their first meeting on May 26, this Friday.

As well as delivering the necessary voice of Syrian students to SPARK and our partner organisations, we hope this exciting opportunity will boost the confidence of the students, encourage comradery and motivate them to step out of their comfort zone by believing in their abilities, taking on responsibilities and participating in more social activities.