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Published on 17 January 2022

The crisis in Syria has been ongoing for nearly 11 years and has significantly impacted the access and quality of education for an entire generation. The combination of displacement, economic hardship and protection concerns are just some of the barriers that young people face today.

As students from our four-partner run community centres in northwest Syria share their experiences, similar stories resonate. Studies interrupted due to protracted displacement and fighting, loss of loved ones, families struggling financially, and a growing lack of self-confidence and hope for their future. Accessing schools has also been made harder by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with the crippled education system unable to maintain classes or facilitate remote learning.  

This International Day of Education we follow the lives of Aida and Ahmed and their determination to gain an education despite the disruptions and challenges they have faced in northwest Syria.

Image credits and information i
Aida (right), sits with her sister Ghada. Life skills training at her local centre has helped her rebuild her confidence Credit: Operations & Policy Center
Aida (right), sits with her sister Ghada. Life skills training at her local centre has helped her rebuild her confidence
Aida (right), sits with her younger sister Ghada in northwest Syria (Operations & Policy Center/Christian Aid).

Aida's Story

Aida, 29, lives with her father and siblings in the countryside in northwest Syria, after being displaced from their village due to conflict. Sadly, Aida’s mother passed away three years ago.

Displacement eroded Aida’s confidence and she was worried that her new community would not accept her. She felt sad and isolated and did not want to see anyone or 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 young people to come together, access education, vocational training, psychosocial support such as life skills and counselling services, and resources including libraries and computers.

Through her life skills training Aida feels that she is now able to set and achieve her goals that previously she felt were beyond her reach.

I set myself the goal of getting a job in a humanitarian organisation, and I achieved it.

- Aida.

Hired as a supervisor in a COVID-19 mask making workshop, she uses her newfound confidence to build moral amongst the women at work.

For Aida, her biggest fear was that she would not be able to integrate into her new community. She feels that the life skills training has helped her adapt and to feel more integrated.

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.
Ahmed studying for his degree in northwest Syria
Ahmed studying for his degree in northwest Syria (Operations & Policy Center/Christian Aid).

Ahmed's Story

Ahmed, 21, has lived in northwest Syria since his family of nine was displaced from their village in early 2020. One of his brothers primarily supports the family but they struggle financially. Ahmed has also dealt with kidney failure since he was 6 years old.

Ahmed is studying for an Accountancy degree, but 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 our local partner in northwest Syria. Previously reliant on his brothers for money 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.

Creating Alternative Futures

Our EU-funded ‘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.

Find out more about Creating Alternative Futures