In light of International Day of Education on Monday 24 January, Good News Shared is showcasing inspiring organisations under this year’s theme of ‘Changing Course, Transforming Education.’
The Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011, has triggered mass displacement and thus, Syria remains the world’s largest refugee crisis. Around 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced including 2.5 million children. A further 6.6 million have fled as refugees, mostly in countries near Syria. After a decade of conflict, as government troops, opposition groups and international forces battle for territory, the lives and wellbeing of men, women and children are threatened. In particular, young people and children are at risk of becoming a lost generation, with limited education and employment opportunities and struggling with severe trauma as a result of the conflict.
Prior to the war, almost all of Syria’s children were enrolled in primary school, however, today the school enrollment rates are amongst the lowest in the world. Youth unemployment is at its highest, compounding the trauma, isolation and poverty they are experiencing.
This International Day of Education, we highlight the lives of Aida and Ahmed and their determination to gain an education despite the challenges they have faced in northwest Syria.
Christian Aid’s Creating Alternative Futures project aims to improve the education and development of young people in northwest Syria. Four community centres for young people have been established to provide psychosocial support, remedial education, vocational training, internships and stipends, university scholarships, community engagement training and initiatives, specialised first response training and the establishment of volunteer first response committees, and specialised nursing diplomas.
29 year-old Aida lives with her father and siblings in the countryside of northwest Syria after being displaced from their village due to conflict. Sadly, three years ago Aida’s mother passed away.
Displacement damaged Aida’s confidence and she was concerned that her new community would not accept her. She felt isolated and had no desire to leave the house. It was at this time that she was encouraged to register at her local community centre for young people through Christian Aid’s EU funded programme. The four community centres in northwest Syria provide a safe space for to come together, access education, vocational training and psychosocial support. This includes life skills and counselling services, and educational resources including libraries and computers.
“I set myself the goal of getting a job in a humanitarian organisation, and I achieved it.” – Aida
Through such training, Aida feels that she is now able to set and achieve her goals that previously she felt were beyond her reach. Now hired as a supervisor in a COVID-19 mask-making workshop, Aida’s confidence has been boosted as she builds morale amongst the women at work. The life skills training provided by Christian Aid has helped her feel more integrated and adapt to worklife.
“I realised that the universe does not stop with displacement and maybe it can even be something good or the beginning of something new.” – Aida
21 year-old Ahmed has lived in northwest Syria since his family was displaced from their village in early 2020. One of his brothers is a primary supporter for the family but they struggle financially. Also, Ahmed has dealt with kidney failure since the age of six.
Ahmed is studying for an Accountancy degree, however his attendance was affected due to security issues and displacement. Despite these challenges, his grades remain excellent.
In his third year, he applied for a scholarship through Christian Aid’s local partner in northwest Syria. Previously reliant on his brothers financially, he felt a real burden on his family. Sometimes he did not have the fare to travel to the university but did not want to ask his family for support. The scholarship means he is now more financially independent, and he says he is very happy.
‘I felt overlooked, particularly due to my chronic illness. But now I have a real sense of achievement and progress, which has given me the motivation and enthusiasm to continue to achieve, excel and gain the trust of those around me—despite my illness.’ – Ahmed
Ahmed is top of his class and is already looking for jobs and further training opportunities. He is one of 222 university students who have benefited from scholarships. Students use the funds to cover costs such as books, transport, and school supplies. The scholarships and tuition payment supports students to continue their studies and all 222 students have continued to be enrolled in their courses with good academic standing.
In a recent survey, 90% of the respondents said that receiving the scholarship has contributed to improving their academic achievements as they are able to allocate more time and focus to their studies. In addition to securing the costs and expenses for their studies, students reported that the scholarship had a positive impact on their wellbeing and gave them the motivation to excel.
To find our more about Christian Aid, click here.