Jusoor building bridges to Syrians’ education
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.