The Higher Education Minister of Syria, who is on his first visit to India, says the scholarships are a big help.
Education is one area where the Syrian government has been keen to receive help from the Indian government.
In a major breakthrough for the war-torn state, Prime Minister Narendra Modi granted 1,000 scholarships to Syrian students earlier this week. On his first ever visit to India, Dr Atef Naddaf, Higher Education Minister of Syria, told The Sunday Guardian about the Syrian government’s efforts to help Syrian children cover their lost years in schools and colleges. Excerpts:
Q: India has agreed to help Syria in the education sector. What did Syria ask for and how much of it India agreed to give?
A. India gave us everything we asked for. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has agreed to give 1,000 scholarships to Syrian students, which is a big help. We have met people from universities who have been cooperative.
As of now, the disciplines in which these scholarships will be given and what universities will be collaborating, will be decided in upcoming meetings.
We will try to make these scholarships available in 2018 itself, but final decisions will be out after further meetings.
Q: You also met the Vice-Chancellor of Delhi University. Was there any major breakthrough from the meeting?
A. The V-C of Delhi University wanted to know what the challenges are for Syrian students.
We have requested the V-C to shorten the duration of PhD for Syrian students or allow them to finish their degree in the minimum duration possible so that they can go back to Syria and contribute to nation-building. The V-C has agreed to consider if Syrian students’ PhD can be prioritised.
Q: Has the Syrian government been involved in bilateral talks with those neighbouring countries where Syrians have taken shelter, to facilitate their education in refugee camps like in Lebanon, Turkey etc?
A: Our neighbouring countries have also been part of the reason why Syria had to go into a civil war. They have acted as our enemies; so how is it possible to hold talks with them about facilitating education?
Even before any refugees had arrived, Turkey had built fences and allowed infiltration of terrorist organisations into Syria. Syrians from any country who are coming back, for them Syrian government’s priority is to rehabilitate them and education is a big part of that.
Q: What has the Syrian government been doing to provide education to children and youths who have suffered in the civil war?
A: The Syrian government has been committed to protect Syrian children’s future.
We have started separate programmes for school and college students where they will be given provisions to take extra classes to cover their curriculum that they missed out on during the siege.
The aim is to help these students cover their curriculum in one to two years.
We have made provisions for them to appear in examinations as well by providing them with books, uniforms, stationery etc., all for free, including hostels and food.
Euphrates University is an ideal example of Syrian government’s commitment towards its children.
The university has been operational throughout six years and the teachers stayed inside the campus and continued to teach, despite harsh conditions. The government has also provisioned for 10,000 teachers to teach in the affected area.