Sat 31 Oct 2020

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Students of northern Aleppo countryside wait for science faculties to be restored  

A construction worker at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences of Gaziantep University in the city of Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo - September 2020 (Abrar Organization for Relief and Development)

A construction worker at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences of Gaziantep University in the city of Azaz in the northern countryside of Aleppo - September 2020 (Abrar Organization for Relief and Development)

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Ali Barakat has studied hard in order to make his dream of being a student at the faculty of architecture come true, but unfortunately, his dreams are shattered by the bitter reality; no colleges or universities in the northern countryside of Aleppo with national or international recognition. 

The northern countryside of Aleppo has been under Turkish administration since 2017; The Turkish language is taught in schools, Turkish companies invest in power and communications, and use the Turkish currency for circulation; however, the universities opened in the region include only limited colleges of Turkish recognition.

Student Ali Barakat chose to study in a non-science branch recognized by Turkey rather than taking a risk and studying five years in the branch he always wanted at a university, yet with no international recognition or a “reliable” diploma.

Universities with non-science colleges but with Turkish recognition

Educational institutions in northwestern Syria have not received better treatment than the rest of the institutions affiliated with the Syrian opposition. Since the inauguration of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG)-linked Free Aleppo University at the end of 2015, it has not gained international recognition for its degrees, neither have the universities or colleges spread in the region. Then, the Turkish colleges have been established to provide the students with the “surest” alternative.

The first college that offered the desired “recognition” was the private “Başakşehir Academy for Arab and Islamic Sciences,” which opened its branch in the countryside of Aleppo in 2017, with limited specializations in the Arabic language, Islamic science, and journalism, two years after its establishment in the Turkish city of Istanbul, bearing the recognition of the Jordanian “Yarmouk” University.

Then, the Turkish University of “Harran” established in the city of Şanlıurfa, announced the opening of a branch in the city of al-Bab in 2018 with departments including civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering, with mathematics, physics, chemistry, and agriculture, asking students to take the “YÖS” exam ( an entrance examination designed for foreign students wishing to study in higher education institutions in Turkey),  in order to equate the Syrian high school diploma with the Turkish one.

However, “Harran” chose to take the first batch of students accepted to study in Turkey, after which it stopped receiving applicants.

The University of Gaziantep replaced by the withdrawing university after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a decision to open three faculties in the countryside of Aleppo, namely the Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences in al-Bab, the Faculty of Education in Afrin, and the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Azaz, on 4 October 2019 after the university opened a vocational school in the city of Jarablus in June 2018.

Turkey recognizes the university’s degree, and its graduates are treated as graduates of Turkish universities.

The University of Gaziantep also requires students to obtain the “YÖS” certificate based on scientific, mathematical questions even though its available branches do not include science specializations except the Mathematics Department, which was opened for the current academic year for the first time.

Student Abdul Hadi al-Ibrahim argued that passing the “YÖS” exam was not the biggest challenge to his academic dream, but it was the limited university options that stood in his way.

Al-Ibrahim believes that the available specializations at the university are “good.” Yet, it lacks engineering departments, adding the available medical branches are limited to first and emergency aid, physical therapy, midwifery, and patient care, while he hopes to open a law faculty in the near future. 

Department awaiting restoration

Gaziantep University opened its faculties in Jarablus, Afrin, and al-Bab, benefiting from public buildings prepared to receive students. However, its Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Azaz remained pending the completion of the restoration.

Abrar Organization for Relief and Development supervises the refurbishment of the building to receive 400 university students, throughout all stages of construction work, including the construction of water and sanitary systems, distribution of power lines, painting and tiling as a first stage, followed by repairing the fence, the main gate, and the pedestrian walkways, Wael al-Halabi, a board member at Gaziantep University, told Enab Baladi.

Al-Halabi pointed out that the selection of the “Abrar” organization to equip the building is due to its previous work in the field of education, which included the rehabilitation of kindergartens and schools since 2013 in northwestern Syria, and the provision of compensatory education courses for those who have been cut off from secondary education since 2017, adding that the organization’s fund provides the cost of the project.

The lack of interest in university education in the region due to years of war and the lack of departments available for students was the motivation behind the launch of the project, which the organization hopes to re-implement the same project in other colleges.

 Al-Halabi hopes that these other colleges will be scientific to achieve “students’ dream of studying” and obtaining a university degree.

Asim Melhem, Enab Baladi’s correspondent, contributed in the preparation of this article

 

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