Leaving Syria: Lebanese Students Need Answers

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The students met with the Syrian consul in Lebanon, Ghassan Anjarini, to ask for Lebanese students with exams to take in Syrian universities to be allowed to sit them in Lebanon, in coordination with the embassy. (Photo: Haitham Moussawi)

By: Rajana Hamyeh

Published Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lebanese students studying at Syrian universities whose classes have been suspended are worrying about two things: what will happen to their academic year if the exams scheduled for this month are deferred; and whether those hoping to transfer to Lebanese universities will be able to do so.

The students are determined to find solutions, whether by getting changes made to the “one-off” decree currently before the cabinet, which intends to allow Syria based students to be admitted into Lebanese universities, or by securing help to continue their studies at private or foreign institutions.

While some Syrian universities remain closed due to security conditions, other have set their exam dates. Many Lebanese students are reluctant to return to Syria for the exams, fearing they could be at risk. Others have decided not to go back at all.

The authorities and universities remain reluctant to act, or are even optimistic on the grounds that things have not reached the point of no return in Syria, and that universities have been scheduling their exams. They are seeking to secure the transfer of students from unsafe universities to other which are holding exams and are developing a solution for those students who want to move to the Lebanese University.

Students worry that the planned cabinet decree will exclude many of them as it makes admission contingent on the absorptive capacity of some universities. Student Farouq Faour fears this means that “connections and political parties could play a role” in deciding which students get places.

Follow-up committee member Muhammad Allam says the stipulation in the decree that students must pass an assessment test “is like a sieve for reducing the number of students who want to enter the university.”

That means two hurdles for students wanting places. “The Lebanese University is being hands-off on this issue,” says Allam. Faour adds that the students have not been able to reach any collective solution, though some have resolved their individual cases by “knocking on doors.” Student representatives are also planning a meeting with the Central Bank to discuss the possibility of obtaining soft loans to continue their university studies.

At a meeting yesterday students discussed lobbying political parties to get the cabinet decree changed. They are likely to press the demand that they are all provided with places at the Lebanese University. They have also been arranging visits to private universities, and sounding out officials and political parties about the possibility of obtaining scholarships for universities abroad.

They also want clarity on the numbers involved. According to Allam, the authorities have played up the scale of the problem by talking of 2,000-plus students seeking repatriation. But the list submitted by his committee to the education minister’s advisor, Ghassan Chakroun, had only 184 names, and while not final, the total number is unlikely to exceed 500 students.

The students also met with the Syrian consul in Lebanon, Ghassan Anjarini, to ask for Lebanese students with exams to take in Syrian universities to be allowed to sit them in Lebanon, in coordination with the embassy. He promised to provide whatever help the embassy can to the students and seriously consider their proposals.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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