Educating Syria’s Future Leaders: Zahra University Student Experience

Educating Syria’s Future Leaders

People of all ages have been affected by the Syrian war. Young adults who were ready to take on the “real world” were limited only by their education before being displaced by war. It is for the next generation that Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) founded a university in Turkey that focuses on providing quality education to Syrian refugee students.

Zahra University, located in Gaziantep, Turkey (about 75 miles from Aleppo, Syria), offers courses instructed in Arabic to help students to complete their higher education. It also offers Turkish language classes so the students may adapt to their new place of residence.

There are 479 students at ZU, up 150 from the previous year. The old university building was much smaller, so ZF helped move the institution to a larger, more modern campus. ZF pays for professors’ and other staff’s salaries, the building’s rent and operation costs, and offers scholarships to exceptional students, students who have lost a parent in the war, and to the wives of the imprisoned, who do not have the means to pay tuition fees. ZU also provides living accommodations for some students.

ZF Outreach Coordinator Abdelhamid Omran visited the university during a field visit to Turkey and Jordan. He met students who shared what it means to them to be able to attend such an institution.

Susanna, a second-year student, was studying English in Syria but had to leave because of the war. She stayed at home for the first year like many others who had to stop attending school because of the danger. Susanna said ZU “helps Syrian students hold onto their culture without having to go too far outside their comfort zone more than they already are, being in a different country.”

One of her peers, a third-year student named Aisha, is from Serbia but of Syrian background. She used to visit Syria for vacation and to see family, but she ended up going to Turkey due to the war. She heard about ZU from her uncle, who recommended that she study there because of its excellent reputation, and she said she liked both the education and the professors providing it. She said the campus culture resembles a large family.

“I had to leave my family, but here I met a new family,” Aisha said.

Their peer Dalal was studying computer science in Syria, but her family was too scared to keep sending her to school. They went to Egypt, but she went to Turkey to continue her studies.

“Although I’m in Turkey alone, I consider everyone at ZU to be my family,” Dalal said. “ZU has helped us to continue the studies that we started in Syria. This university gave us hope.”

Three young men attending ZU, Muhammed, Hassan and Obaid, are all media and communications majors from Aleppo. They believe studying communication is crucial because it will facilitate their ability to spread information and knowledge, especially about what is happening in Syria.

Obaid’s leg was injured by shrapnel from a bombing in which his family lost its home and much of its wealth. He went to Turkey for treatment and found out about ZU, which made him decide to stay in Turkey.

He said ZU helps Syrian students a great deal because it’s in Arabic, whereas the other universities teach in Turkish. Hassan said he hopes to have an educated future generation of Syrians who can rebuild it and bring it back to prosperity.

“I also want to rebuild Syria,” Obaid said. “We are studying for the future of Syria, and we’d like to establish schools and universities to educate future generations.”

These students want to teach about their faith and rebuild Syria literally from the ground up. It’s their dedication that drives them to succeed despite difficult circumstances. Please consider setting up a recurring donation to education and skill training to ensure these young visionaries continue to receive the funding and support they need to complete their degrees.