World Refugee Day is an international day to honour refugees. On this occasion, we spoke with Muayyad Bakkar, a former refugee student at Al Kayrawan institute in Lebanon (partner in Brighter Futures project).
My name is Muayyad Bakkar, I am 29-years old. I was studying Sociology at the Damascus University in Syria when the war started. I was forced to return to Homs, my hometown. I was thinking that what was happening would not last long, but unfortunately this was not the case. Before the war, Homs used to be a major industrial centre, but today, the city is mostly destroyed. We were hence forced once again to leave the countryside of Homs, towards Lebanon, escaping the war, which didn’t distinguish between innocent citizens or enemies. I found myself empty and deprived, in a situation where following education appeared to be an extreme challenge. I didn’t have the financial means to move to another city, with opportunities to complete my education. My ambitions and hope for change started fading, studying became a dream that would never come true. Fortunately, I got to learn about Al Kayrawan institute, which is geographically closest to Arsal, located in the Bekaa region where I currently live. I regained some hope, because the institute offered me an opportunity to follow education once again. I started studying nursing care. Unfortunately, I never completed my studies, because I couldn’t afford financially the transportation to go the institute and follow education.
I know that I am not the only one whose dreams were shattered by the war. Many young people like me suffer and have a story like mine. But I am still determined to complete my education one day, because I believe that we are stronger and greater than we may expect, and that whoever has the will to fight for his dreams, will be unbeatable.
There are many refugee students with a similar story as Muayyad. Despite of the will, educational institutes like Al Kayrawan cannot always help refugee students addressing all the barriers they encounter to follow education. In the case of Muayyad, Al Kayrawan provided him with the possibility to follow education free of cost. But the high costs of transportation made it impossible for Muayyad to even attend the classes. The Brighter Futures project aims at building capacity of institutes that offer education to refugee students and to improve the quality of education for refugee students by removing the access barriers to education, strengthening the teaching skills in the institutes, and by making labour market linkages and improving job opportunities for refugee students. For example, by enhancing access to education through an online education platform, where students can access material, even when they cannot physically join a class.
Brighter Futures is a Nuffic-funded project, implemented by the Centre for International Cooperation of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (CIS-VU), in collaboration with CIS college and SPARK foundation in Lebanon. The project is implemented at Al Kayrawan institute, an educational center, and two NGOs, Learning Through Action (LTA) and Renovation and Development Association (RDA). Brighter Futures was selected for the A Better World@VU exhibition as one of the 16 sustainable projects by VU staff and students that contribute to a better world. For more information about the exhibition, see link.