Jusoor building bridges to Syrians’ education

Sunday 17/04/2016
Jusoor children in classroom in one of their schools in Lebanon.

London - With the Syrian war entering its sixth year and no indi­cation of a resolu­tion in sight, Syrian refugee communities and expatri­ates are creating home-grown or­ganisations aimed at helping Syrian youth.
The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 270,000 people and displaced millions. Education, or the lack of it, remains a pressing issue. For the past five years Syria children have been struggling with sporadic education.
To counter this, Syrians around the globe have joined hands to as­sist with both education and career progression through the establish­ment of Jusoor, a non-political non-governmental organisation. The name means “bridges” in English.
Since it was founded in 2011, Ju­soor has provided scholarships, career guidance, education and en­trepreneurship programmes. The organisation works with children and young professionals in a num­ber of countries.
“This concept was first formed upon the realisation that much of global attention was centred on the events of the Syrian crisis,” Jusoor board member Aziza Osman said.
“In education, it is very difficult to find institutions outside Syria that would enrol Syrians as trans­fer students, especially since many lack the required documents to en­rol.”
She said: “Victims of war can­not be expected to deliver proper attested transcripts, diplomas and recommendation letters. Many have lost their papers while fleeing the country and have no contact with their universities to request recommendations. These students are left without the chance to com­plete their higher education.”
Jusoor seeks to facilitate the pro­cess of enrollment in educational establishments abroad by remov­ing barriers that often put off stu­dents from applying and prevent them from completing their educa­tion, Osman pointed out.
This is done through connecting the Syrian expatriate community internationally with young people inside Syria to help them establish a solid understanding of what the education system is like abroad and what is needed to continue their education in the West.
In The Cost of War, a report re­leased in January by Save the Chil­dren, the organisation estimated the cost of rebuilding the war-dam­aged schools in Syria at as much as $3 billion.
It said the long-term effects on Syria’s economy of 2.8 million chil­dren not returning to school could be as much as 5.4% of gross domes­tic product — almost $2.18 billion.
A greater cost comes to Syrian so­ciety with a generation struggling to access basic education. This proves crucial as it is this very gen­eration that will bear the task of re­building a much damaged country.
Syrian student Ahmad Alajdad is among the lucky ones. He is study­ing financial analysis and fund management at the University of Exeter in southern England after commencing his journey with Ju­soor three years ago.
“I heard about Jusoor in 2012 through some friends in Syria at the time,” he said. “To be honest, I did not know what to expect. After applying to be mentored, I success­fully acquired a scholarship and got the opportunity to attend a pres­tigious master’s programme in the UK.
“The fact that I received the mentorship for free made the pro­cess much more accessible. Being a prime beneficiary of this vibrant educational and professional net­work I am now proud to be a Jusoor mentor, giving back to my commu­nity and helping young men and women to pursue their dreams.”
Cutting to the heart of the anxiety felt by their fellow Syrians, Jusoor has tried to bridge this formidable gap by helping Syrians find part-time and freelance jobs, as well as encouraging them to partner up and offer independent services.
A powerful illustration high­lighting Jusoor’s work in Lebanon includes assisting children in ac­cessing education. Fees to join public schools were $50 per child; unaffordable for most refugees. As such, Jusoor opened its first school for refugees in Beirut, accommo­dating more than 150 students free of charge.
“We soon scaled to two other centres in the Bekaa valley (east of Lebanon) where most refugees re­side. Currently, we have more than 1,700 students aged 5 to 14 years old, 48 teachers who themselves are refugees and employ over 20 others in positions supporting the running of our schools, including teacher assistants, facility manage­ment, transportation and security officers,” said Osman.
In this manner, Jusoor has es­tablished resourceful means to ad­dress educational and professional needs for Syrians both in the Mid­dle East and abroad, while actively promoting the consolidation of a vibrant Syrian network from all classes, backgrounds and ages.
Albeit, a colossal task, it is such benevolent and grass-root initia­tives that will reignite hope among Syrians who are suffering from the conflict.