“When I found out what GCSE’s was – I was shocked. I had two options: do GCSE’s or give up my dreams.”
Bombs, starvation, fear of death, poverty and loss… These are only some of many ordeals that Syrians are fleeing from. With the fear of never seeing their homeland again, thousands are hitting the roads since the beginning of the on-going war. Some take days to arrive at a safer destination, some are fortunate enough for transportation whilst others like 5-year-old Aylan Kurdi, don’t make it at all. What do they want? Without a doubt they want safety and a better life, and the young, they want education, to rebuild a better Syria.
Ayham Alhalabi, 20, from Syria was studying his first year in medicine when he moved to Egypt with his two brothers and mother. His brother’s battle with leukaemia and the arising dangers and conflict in their homeland had left them with no other solution but to migrate. Ayham who is an aspiring Doctor faced obstacles in Egypt “I couldn’t continue with university as they wanted proof of my education which I couldn’t provide, I was told that my only option was to start from the beginning and re-take secondary school exams. I had no other choice than to re-sit.” With only two months to the exams, Ayham and his family were brought to the UK.
The United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) aided the family to the UK where Ayham’s brother could be treated. “I wanted to stay and complete my studies but was told that if I don’t go now, I won’t be able to in the future.” The young aspiring doctor faced similar obstacles in the UK; he was told that the only route into university would be starting from GCSE level.
“I thought GCSE’s was a preparatory stage into university, when I found out what GCSE’s was – I was shocked. I had two options: do GCSE’s or give up my dreams. I decided to do GCSE in 2015” he says.
Ayham describes himself as an activist who stood against the oppressive regime, “I was amongst those wanted in Syria, my friend who went to my University in request of my files was questioned by the Government as to where I was”.
According to Ayham, the main issue for 16-19 year olds in education is the language barrier “they don’t know the language, GCSE needs a high level of English so they have difficulties – schools reject them because they don’t know English”
For a brighter future Syrians define education as one of there main priorities. The government emphasises on the importance of getting young Syrian’s into education. UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening told the BBC “We must ensure Syria’s children do not become a lost generation.”
During a talk, Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai called out to the world leaders, emphasising on the importance in providing funding for education.”It’s time for the world to match their commitment to get every Syrian child back in school” she said.
The activist who was shot in the head by the Taliban has started a campaign through her Malala Fund.
Sumayah, 22 came to the UK two years ago for a better education and safer life. She recalls her first days in education; “everyday I used to cry, because I didn’t understand, I couldn’t do the homework.” She feels that the level of English provided is not enough for those who want to enter university. “I’m losing out on university years, the level of English being taught is not enough to prepare me for higher education.”
In 2012 The Syria Students UK Fees Campaign was founded in order to aid Syrians studying in the UK. Additionally in 2013 the National Union of Students supported the campaign, and appealed “to call on all UK universities to waive or reduce the fees or extend the payment periods for all Syrian students affected by the conflict, whether sponsored or self-funded, so that they can complete their studies”.
However, Mohammad, 26, a medicine graduate from Syria feels that not enough support is provided. “As a job seeker you get benefits for living costs and that is not enough – the department forces you to find a job, they don’t care in which field, they don’t consider your education. It’s not fair to ask educated people to find any job. They should help us establish careers in our own profession”
Is the UK doing enough for the refugees?
Prime minister David Cameron said he would take up to 20,000 over 5 years. Razan Alakraa who is a member of the board for ‘Refugees Welcome” said that this number was not enough and that the UK is capable of doing more.
Westminster World asked aspiring Primary school teacher Jake Garwood for his views on educating young Syrian children.
” I have faith in the teachers of The UK education that we would welcome refugee children into our classroom. These children, through no fault of their own have had their childhoods ruined, and every child deserves an education. I know that I would love to teach a class of refugee children. As I teacher I don’t think there would be anything more rewarding! I am proud to be of a country with an education system that is ready to offer help to these people. As for language constraints, yes, it would be difficult but it shouldn’t be viewed as a barrier. Instead we should approach it as an opportunity to learn more. How amazing it would be to have a classroom of children who speak different languages! Think of how much myself and the children could learn! They may be expected to learn English, but what’s stopping me from learning their language?” he said.
90 world leaders will meet in Istanbul this May for a World Humanitarian Summit. Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown describes it as “a special humanitarian conference -the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul — promises to be a defining moment for the 24 million out-of-school children in conflict zones worldwide”.