The paint is still drying on the walls of Zahra University. The classrooms are empty now but in the coming weeks young Syrians will fill the six floors of this renovated building. For many of the displaced youth, it will be their first time in years being back in the classroom since the conflict started.
A glance outside the window and you can view Gaziantep, the town that lies on the Turkish-Syrian border and sees the arrival of new refugees everyday. Only 75 miles from here is Aleppo, once a thriving urban center of Syria but now a complete warzone. The massive refugee issue has arose with a regional education crisis and UNICEF estimates millions of Syrian children have no access to education.
Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) is now taking monumental steps in opening its very own university to serve these Syrian refugee students. “The ultimate goal is to empower the next generation of Syrian professionals who will rebuild their country,” said Mr. Halil Demir, one of the founders of ZF, in a piece with Al-Fanar Media.
The institution will feature a cafeteria, library, and 36 classrooms as well as 15 full-time and 20-part-time faculty members. One of the distinguishing factors of Zahra University is that courses will be taught in Arabic. In the past, Syrian students have struggled to integrate into the Turkish higher education system and this will hopefully help with language barriers.
The classes are expected to start in September with offered courses in computer science, education, management, humanities, and social sciences. Already, 120 students have signed up with more enrolling each day. ZF representatives in Gaziantep believe the university will easily reach its maximum capacity of 400.
The lost generation of Syria is facing considerable odds. Some young Syrians have lost it all – families, homes, and now their chances of a proper education. ZF believes education is the foundation of the youth and hopes Zahra University produces the next generation of Syrians who will rebuild their country.