“Small-Grant” Projects: Marae’ Local Council Rehabilitates University Housing Caravans
Enab Baladi – Aleppo countryside
Local councils in the northern countryside of Aleppo are implementing several service and development projects under the “Small Grants” program launched by the Stabilization Committee two months ago, which is active in the north of Syria in all educational, engineering, and medical fields.
Marae’ Local Council was the first to benefit from the grants program. In the previous days, the council submitted a request to the Stabilization Committee to get a financial grant in order to implement the project of maintenance and rehabilitation of the university housing caravans of the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy in the city.
The technical director of the project, Eng. Abdelhamid Aref, told Enab Baladi that Mare’ Local Council formulated the project proposal, which was approved by the Stabilization Committee in early November and started to implement it under a memorandum of understanding.
Aref added to Enab Baladi that the project aims to the maintenance of the prefabricated rooms that were secured by Free Aleppo University and Marae’ Local Council. The rooms used to be totally inhabitable in the past, which required the start of their rehabilitation for the housing of female students coming from distant areas such as Aleppo, the countryside of Hama and the western countryside of Aleppo.
Grants to 30 councils
The Stabilization Committee has recently launched the “Small Grants” program, targeting about 30 local councils in the northern and eastern countryside of Aleppo, extending from Azaz up to Jarabulus, al-Bab, the area of Afrin and its countryside.
The grants program aims to provide financial grants to the targeted councils to implement projects that are of priority and are now needed in the fields of services, healthcare, education or development.
The grants mechanism stipulates that the local council with its existing staff implement the project. The role of Stabilization Committee will be the practical application of sessions and trainings, which target the councils with training in strategic planning, financial policies, administrative affairs, follow-up and evaluation.
The Stabilization Committee was established under a decree by the Free Aleppo Council in early December 2015, in conjunction with the Operation Euphrates Shield launched by Turkey and the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo at that time.
The Committee consists of Engineering, Educational, Legal and Medical offices as well as the Office of Studies and Information.
One of the priorities of the Committee’s work in the liberated areas is to help launching and implementing the works of local councils, or to contribute to their reformation in case they were inexistent, so as to ensure representation of all existing social and religious segments.
According to officials, the Committee’s work also aims to prepare assessment and studies concerning the urgent aid needs of the towns, villages, and residential centers that had been liberated from ISIS in the northern and eastern countrysides of Aleppo.
The Stabilization Committee works in close cooperation with the Turkish Government, represented by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, along with other donors.
Objective: Decent housing units
According to Eng. Abdelhamid Aref, the project of Marae’s local council is designated for the maintenance of the 14 residential caravans and two sanitary caravans. The caravans’ floors were paved with concrete, after being worn out and no longer suitable for habitation.
The project also includes repairing the totality of electrical and sanitary installations, as well as the maintenance of the general structure of the already built houses due to rainwater leakages.
Besides, other houses will be equipped with doors and windows, in addition to fixing already installed ones. Furthermore, the outer wall, which was destroyed because of the bombings that took place in the previous period, is to be reconstructed.
Aref stated that “the project aims at creating decent housing units which are close to colleges. This factor will increase the student’s commitment to attend classes, leading to the improvement and upgrading of colleges’ academic level, in addition to increasing the number of graduated medical staff in the region to cover the extreme shortage of doctors.”
Abdul Rahman, a student at the Faculty of Medicine, considered that the project of Mare’ local council is an effective plan that will spare students transportation hardships and rental costs.
He told Enab Baladi that the current circumstances are not suitable for students who are obliged to rent houses at their own expense, indicating that students will have to pay considerable amounts of money for rents and travel costs especially in case they come from Idlib or Aleppo.
According to Aref, one of the project’s goals is to reduce the financial burden on university students and increase their sense of trust in the region’s educational institutions through constructing colleges which are fully equipped with all necessary facilities.
The “Free” Aleppo University inaugurated the Faculty of Medicine in the city of Marae’ in 2017. Students in first, second and fourth years, who were displaced from Eastern Ghouta, attend Marae medical school. Likewise, a College of Pharmacy was also established in the region earlier this year.
Despite the current housing project, implemented in Marae’, Aref asserted that the number of currently planned housing units is not enough for all students. Therefore, the region’s medical colleges will allocate these housing units for female students for the time being. Aref noted that it is necessary to work on increasing the number of housing units or to build vertical residential units to encompass the total number of students. Thus, Aref added that maximizing the project’s capacity “requires sponsors, knowing that the engineers who are necessary for supervising the construction work can be hired among Marae’s locals.”