Response to Syria’s Education Crisis
*Written by Daphne Mulder
After four years of war and civil unrest, Syria’s higher education sector is facing a severe crisis. Estimations have been made that over 100,000 students have had their education interrupted in 2014. In Turkey alone, up to 20,000-30,000 Syrians would have been enrolled in university if the war had not erupted. There are very few opportunities for Syrian students in Syria, as the majority of the universities are no longer operating. In Turkey, Syrian students face financial difficulties as well as a language barrier.
In response to this dire higher education crisis both in Syria and in Turkey, SPARK has launched two parallel initiatives. These initiatives address the different needs of Syrians and Syrian refugees in Turkey and are both part of the Syria Crisis Response and Early Recovery Programme.
SPARK Syria Launches Summer Course for Syrian Students in Turkey
This summer, on Monday July 6th, together with Gaziantep University, SPARK Syria launched a vocational Summer Course for 50 Syrian trainees focused on Project Cycle Management (PCM) in Early Recovery. The Summer Course offers Syrian trainees an opportunity to actively be involved in civic initiatives and also enable them to contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of their war torn country. One student expressed: “All the students come from different NGOs but also from different communities in Syria and to better know each other is a good achievement.”
The objective of the course is to increase the number of skilled Syrian practitioners capable of responding to emergency reconstruction, development, and recovery needs of Syria’s devastated centralized economic sectors. The main focus will be on the primary sector, particularly agriculture. The learning outcomes of the course are based on labour market demands in the conflict area. One of the students noted: ‘This course is very useful for me because I am learning about new concepts in a great way with the help of a case study. It will help me a lot in the recovery when I go back to Syria.’
Due to the globalisation of the conflict and the presence of many international NGO’s in the region, the summer course also addresses the need for the English language. Over half of the trainees are taught entirely in English and the others are taught in a mix of English and Arabic. Moreover, all students receive Business English trainings, specifically customised for PCM. One of the students said: “If we have a team to solve problems in my country, we will use things that we learned in the PCM Summer Course”
SPARK Syria Begins Institute for Agricultural Technology (IAT) in Syria
Back in June this year, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture of the Syrian Interim Government, the SPARK Syria team has officially started developing the vocational Institute for Agricultural Technology (IAT) in the Aleppo governorate in Syria.
Food security is one of the biggest concerns for people remaining in Syria, especially in Aleppo. To tackle this issue, SPARK is setting up a higher vocational institute targeting agriculture, technology and industrial production in emergency situations. This vocational institute will both improve skills of those already working in the agro-economy and prepare non-experienced trainees for this sector with around 200 students participating in total. Since the forced displacement of a large proportion of the Syrian population has led to a vacuum in the workforce and the lack of a labour force in general in Syria, it is crucial to empower the remaining population to address their most urgent needs. Furthermore, SPARK aims to build capacity of the Syrian Interim Government and local power structures.
Working inside Syria poses many challenges and obstacles, including security threats, a lack of infrastructure and fuel, and serious restrictions of movement. Nevertheless, the development of the IAT is currently in its final stages and the curriculum for the first courses is currently being finalised. Prospective teachers and the Dean of the Institute have already been appointed and a management structure is being created. In the next coming months, the Ministry of Agriculture and SPARK will prepare for the launch of the pilot course and will set up a laboratory for plant production and protection. The anticipated launch of the first courses will be at the beginning of the new academic year.