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From Camps to Campus

News Stories, 17 July 2014

© UNHCR/B. Sokol Tamara, 20, is a Syrian refugee from the town of Idlib. When forced to flee her home, the most important thing she was able to bring with her was her diploma. With it she hopes to be able to continue her education.

LONDON, United Kingdom, UNHCR - One hundred Syrian refugee students will go to universities in Jordan and Lebanon this autumn and be given a chance to complete four years of studies. This is thanks to the generous support of the Said Foundation to UNHCR’s DAFI programme – the only global higher education programme for refugees.

The Said Foundation has pledged this week over USD1.8 million (£1 million) to UN refugee agency’s scholarships for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.

“Syria is the Foundation’s highest priority and, in the current tragic circumstances, assistance for displaced and refugee Syrians is naturally at the heart of our work,” said the Chairman of the Foundation, Wafic Rida Said on today’s signing of the grant agreement with UNHCR. “Taking a longer-term perspective, the Foundation has been known for three decades for its initiatives in support of higher education, a focus born of our conviction that higher education is a force for change and a force for good,”

To date the Syrian conflict has forced more than 2.9 million people to flee, the vast majority into neighbouring countries, and displaced a further 6.5 million within Syria. Representing more than half of the refugee population, Syria's children and youth have been the most vulnerable of all victims. As the conflict enters its fourth year, they continue to see their families and loved ones killed, their schools and universities destroyed and their hopes eroded or crushed.

“The ongoing Syria conflict is shattering the aspirations of millions of young Syrians, robbing them of the opportunity to build a future for themselves and their war-torn county.  Ensuring that these young people have access to quality education whilst they are refugees is essential in addressing this urgent challenge,” said Roland Schilling UNHCR representative to the United Kingdom. “The support of the Said Foundation, UNHCR’s most significant private UK donor, is therefore indispensable.”

Said Foundation’s grant will greatly help the funding of crucial scholarships for Syrian refugees in Jordan whilst also helping to launch the first higher education scholarship programme for Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Refugees are often on the margins when it comes to access to education. In particular, they face many obstacles in accessing higher education with adequate learning environments and resources to achieve their desired academic goals. UNHCR estimates that only one per cent of young refugees of higher education age are actually enrolled at universities.  Without the right support, refugees are left behind.

“UNHCR is grateful to the Said Foundation for this generous investment in the future of young Syrians. We call on other private sector supporters to follow this lead and support UNHCR’s ‘No Lost Generation’ strategy to protect a generation of Syrian youth from a life of despair, diminished opportunities and broken futures,” said Roland Schilling.

The higher education scholarship for Syrian refugee students in Jordan and Lebanon through UNHCR’s DAFI programme will include all types of post-secondary and tertiary education - education at colleges and universities, leading to degrees, as well as technical, vocational, professional and para-professional training, resulting in certificates and diplomas.

The DAFI programme (a German acronym for the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Programme), provides scholarships to refugees to study at universities and colleges in their hosting countries, and more recently in the countries of return upon repatriation. Education programmes also importantly support protection of refugee youth and their communities alike and facilitate solutions.

Since 1992, DAFI has provided scholarships for more than 6,000 refugees. Currently, over 2,000 students a year have a chance to earn a degree at universities in 40 hosting countries, 40 per cent of whom are young women.

In 2014, UNHCR aims to support up to 150 Syrian students in Jordan and Lebanon, where the DAFI programme is already underway. Two out of three of these students will be supported over the next four years through the USD1.8 million grant of the Said Foundation.

Support from the Said Foundation fund will also give UNHCR a vital opportunity to expand higher education scholarship programmes in the Middle East.

By Andrej Mahecic in London, United Kingdom

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