Organizations providing scholarships for Syrian refugees to study outside their country have begun focusing on creating alumni networks. The move is motivated by two factors.
First, although support from such organizations has enabled thousands of young Syrians to study outside of their home country, few Syrian graduates have found work after completing their degrees.
An October 2020 needs assessment survey of nearly 500 former and current holders of scholarships funded by the European Union’s regional trust fund for Syria, which is known as the Madad fund and is the main source of scholarship funding for Syrian refugees, found that only 16 percent were employed.
The majority of those surveyed were living in Jordan and Lebanon. Graduates and those supporting them say there is a great desire for work. But it is very hard for Syrian refugees to get jobs, especially in Lebanon, where they are allowed to work in only three sectors: construction, agriculture, and cleaning. (See two related articles, “Syrian Refugees Are Often Steered Into Illegal Jobs” and “Little Hope of Jobs for Syrians in Lebanon and Jordan.”)
Alumni networks can provide training to help make Syrian graduates more employable or share news about employment opportunities and scholarships to continue their studies in countries neighboring Syria or further afield.
A Role for Syrian Graduates After the War
The second motivation for creating alumni networks is the urgent need to promote a community of educated Syrian expatriates who might return home when conditions allow. When peace returns, their efforts will be crucial to help rebuild the shattered country and perhaps nudge it in a more democratic direction.
“We’re starting too late,” says Grace Atkinson, executive director of Jusoor, a group made up of Syrian expatriates that has so far funded over 600 scholarships at leading universities around the world.