Idlib: Female university students affected by economic hardships

The building of the Second Faculty of Education at Idlib University - June 25, 2021 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)

The building of the Second Faculty of Education at Idlib University - June 25, 2021 (Enab Baladi/Anas al-Khouli)


Enab Baladi – Baraa Khattab

“I decided to study for two years only, to reduce financial burdens, instead of studying for four years,” the 23-year-old Sidra Abzali summarizes the reasons for her tendency to study a diploma in Turkish language and literature and to quit the study in the history department which she prefers.

Abzali, of Jisr al-Shughour city, southwest of Idlib, said that she chose to study the Turkish language despite studying a semester in the history department due to the high costs of transportation and the length of the studying period.

Students in northwestern Syria face many difficulties that affect their educational attainment, university choices, and even their studies. However, the conditions of female students are multiplied amidst a deteriorating social, economic, and living reality.

Without a breadwinner, high costs

Abzali complained about the high cost of transportation from her village of al-Maland in the western countryside of Idlib, about 90 minutes away, to the city of Idlib and the costs of printed courses, lectures, and four-year tuition fees.

She revealed the absence of a breadwinner for her after her father was arrested by the regime in 2012, and the difficult living conditions of the family were enough reasons to change the university department.

Abzali considered that studying the Turkish language for two years eases her financial burdens, and admission to the branch does not require a high rate, noting that she has contacted several agencies that offer scholarships to students at the University of Idlib, but she did not succeed in obtaining any funded scholarship.

Abzali is one of the dozens of female students who face difficulties in completing their education in northwestern Syria, and reality narrows the door for them to choose.

Rama al-Afandi, 20, has problems of another kind. Despite obtaining a place in university housing in the city of Idlib, where she studies in the English language department, she pays an annual rent of 1,500 Turkish liras (about $70), in addition to tuition fees, living needs, and transportation in case she decides to visit her family.

Among the most prominent difficulties that students face is the inability to secure university tuition fees and installments, in addition to the difficult living conditions they go through, the distances between places of residence and universities, and road closures in many cases due to security conditions.

As for Seba Dandash, 28, of Jisr al-Shughour, she stopped studying for five years because of the security situation, her inability to pay university tuition fees and the difficulty of transportation and long distances.

With the opening of the Teachers Training Institute in Jisr al-Shughour, Dandash’s hopes of completing her educational career were renewed.

Dandash is not interested in the issue of certificate recognition, according to what she told Enab Baladi, as she was studying at an institute whose certificate was “unrecognized.” However, what she cares about is pursuing her passion for study and the experience she will gain.

Tough choices

Abzali chose the Turkish language after its optimism that it would be a basic subject in the school curricula, in addition to the desire of many students to complete their educational attainment in Turkey through the institute’s sending of outstanding students there.

She said that optimism spread among the students of the Turkish Language Institute after hearing about the experiences of their colleagues traveling after graduation, especially with the students’ desire to obtain certificates recognized by the Turkish government, and to acquire more skills through their travel to Turkey, adding that the exchange of information with those who lived the experience pushes some students to choose this branch over others.

Al-Afandi experienced a state of confusion when she chose the English Literature department, she told Enab Baladi, since her education since the seventh grade of preparatory school was focused on the French language, and she did not pay any attention to the English language, but she chose the branch with the encouragement of her family and friends.

“If my degree is recognized or not, I will benefit from the foreign language,” she added.

Al-Afandi believes that the language can be carried by the individual wherever he goes, at any time or place, and based on this, she chose the path of studying a foreign language, especially since this option was accompanied by a desire, and there are many job opportunities in its fields.

With the limited possibility of travel and the absence of freedom of movement, in light of the conditions that countries impose on Syrians, many students prefer to stay to work in northern Syria or to study in universities in the region, which reduces their interest in having their degrees recognized internationally.

Online certificates

Some students in the city of Idlib accept distance education courses, hoping to obtain international certificates that will enable them to find job opportunities, improve their job status, or benefit from course certificates if they travel abroad.

This turnout comes amid the difficulties of finding job opportunities and the lack of recognition of their university degrees issued by their universities, which forces most of them to accept any job opportunity, even if it is not related to their university specialization.

Students and graduates of the public and private universities of northern Syria face difficulty in external recognition of university degrees.

The University of Idlib was established in 2015, and the academic year began in 2015-2016. It started with a number of colleges and institutes, then new colleges and departments were opened for it in the subsequent years.

In 2020, a branch of the University of Idlib was opened in the city of al-Dana.

Last March, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in the Salvation Government in Idlib announced that the council of higher education in the city had obtained recognition from the International Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (QAHE).

In June 2022, the Ministry announced that the Council of Higher Education in Idlib had joined the Asia-Pacific Quality Assurance Network (APQN).

Universities in northern Syria announced their joining international education bodies after fulfilling the conditions.

The universities of Idlib, Private Mary, LightHouse Academy, and the al-Zaytouna International University in Azaz entered the Green Metric classification for higher education institutions.


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