A total of 144 Lebanese and Syrian students recently received a scholarship to pursue their higher education studies at the Lebanese University for the academic year 2017-2018.
The EU-funded HOPES project awarded 58 Lebanese and 86 Syrian students scholarships to pursue a Bachelor's or Master's degree, in collaboration with the Lebanese University.
On November 21st, the students received their scholarships at a ceremony in Beirut attended by EU Ambassador Christina Lassen, head of the EU Delegation to Lebanon, Lebanese University President Fouad Ayoub and HOPES project director Carsten Walbiner.
Providing higher education opportunities
"The project is being implemented in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt, and is funded by the European Union Regional Trust Fund -- known as the Madad Fund -- in response to the Syrian crisis," HOPES project representative in Lebanon Nayla Abi Nasr told Al-Mashareq.
HOPES is a $14 million project implemented by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) together with the British Council, Campus France and Nuffic.
The project aims to "provide higher education opportunities to Syrian refugee students in these countries and students from their host communities, and improving their prospects", Abi Nasr said.
The scholarship covers university enrollment and tuition fees, textbooks and a monthly living allowance, she said. In exchange, the students dedicate some of their time to doing volunteer work in service of their communities.
The project provides university counseling services and English language courses, she said. It also holds conferences and seminars on the Syrian crisis and refugee situation, and funds small educational projects and innovative initiatives.
'New drive in my life'
The scholarship programme gave Aleppo refugee Salam Zeineddin, 30, a chance to earn her Master’s degree in clinical psychology.
"After being displaced to Lebanon, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology at the Lebanese University with the support of my Lebanese relatives," she told Al-Mashareq.
"But for years I have not been able to pursue my Master's and doctorate degrees," she said.
Zeineddin heard of the HOPES project from one of her friends and submitted an application. She was granted an interview and later awarded the scholarship, which saw her return to the university.
"Having received the scholarship for the second consecutive year, I am now in my second year of my Master’s degree and ready to submit my thesis in preparation for the doctoral stage," she said.
"HOPES has given drive to my life to realise my childhood dream of becoming a university researcher and a psychiatrist," she said.
"Officials in charge of the project are encouraging me to complete my specialisation ... and improve my English," she added.
Zeineddin said arming herself with education will enable her upon returning to Syria to treat psychological disorders precipitated by the devastating war in her country.
"I hope to open psychological examination wards in hospitals whose services will be free of charge, and volunteer there alongside colleagues who had also received HOPES scholarships," she said.
What Syrians have experienced, from destruction to deprivation of psychological security and the deprivation of children of education and stability, has created a lot of trauma and disorders, Zeineddin said.
These include depression, anxiety and other post-traumatic disorders, she added.
She said she is motivated to finish school "so that I can return to my country and help [my countrymen] through psychological care to restore their mental balance, safety and stability".
Rural Aleppo native Ali al-Mohammed, 27, was also one of this year's scholarship recipients.
The scholarship will allow him to complete his Master's degree in modern and contemporary history, he told Al-Mashareq.
"My circumstances were difficult upon my arrival in Lebanon and got more difficult after the arrival of my little brother," said al-Mohammed, who currently resides in Zgharta.
The scholarship is "a golden opportunity to complete my specialisation after having lost hope of ever doing so", he said.
Completion of his post-graduate specialisation will qualify al-Mohammed to teach at Syrian universities, "which are experiencing a shortage of staff, especially in the subject of history", he said.
"[The scholarship] also qualifies me to take an administrative position in public institutions that give employment priority to history graduates," he added.
Among the Lebanese students who received the HOPES scholarship this year is law student Charbel Yaqoub Yaqoub, 21, from the town of Hrajel in Keserwan.
The scholarship is "an opportunity to complete my post-graduate specialisation and an excellent stepping stone for my career in the future", he told Al-Mashareq.
However, Yaqoub called for increasing the number of scholarships awarded to Lebanese students, "as a large number of them are ambitious and have excellent grades but their financial circumstances do not allow them to pursue masters and doctorate degrees".