Pope Francis travelled recently to the Greek island of Lesbos, where thousands of Syrian refugees are housed in detention centers as they await updates on their asylum applications. The Pope called on people around the world to, “...heed these scenes of tragic and indeed desperate need, and respond in a way worthy of our common humanity.” Beyond the basic human needs of food, water, and shelter, there are also unprecedented educational needs, which IIE has played an active role in addressing. Today, the Syria Consortium is answering this call by encouraging universities to provide scholarships to qualified Syrian students. The IIE Scholar Rescue Fund is offering funding to host institutions that can offer temporary academic positions for Syrian scholars to continue their teaching and research until it’s safe to return home. This work not only has short-term impact by finding placements for many qualified Syrian academics, as well as hundreds of other threatened scholars around the world, but it also has long-term benefits for training teachers and future leaders who will go on to create the educational infrastructure for Syria’s future. As much as the work of supporting refugees is future oriented, it is also a vital part of IIE’s history.
On Friday, April 29th, I sat in the rear of the 12th floor banquet hall at IIE’s New York Headquarters, humbled to be a part of the 2016 Scholar Rescue Fund Forum, "Scholar Voices and University Action." Surrounding me were highly accomplished individuals from education, human rights and government sectors, paired with persecuted scholars from all around the globe, each with a story to tell and a profound determination to make an impactful change.
Over the past two weeks, the Institute has been asked to make a series of presentations on how higher education can respond to the current refugee crisis. Sarah Willcox, Director of IIE's Scholar Rescue Fund and I spoke at The Rockefeller University, Nikki Davis, Program Manager of IIE Initiatives, chaired a panel during a UN high-level event on "Teaming Up to Boost Higher Education Opportunities in Emergencies,” the Best Practices Conference hosted this year by the University of California at Davis convened a pre-conference workshop on “Project No More Lost Generation: Principles of Higher Education Support,” and James King, Assistant Director of the Scholar Rescue Fund, represented IIE in Helsinki at a conference on opportunities for Finnish higher education institutions to become involved in the IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund to support Syrian scholars.
IIE-SRF’s recently announced partnership with Finland’s Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) is the beginning of a trans-Atlantic cooperation that will better serve scholars from Iraq and Syria displaced from their homes by war and violence. To mark this unique partnership, IIE interviewed CIMO’s Director General, Samu Seitsalo and CIMO’s Head of Unit, Higher Education Cooperation, Maija Airas about their mission, the importance of supporting higher education in emergencies, and what attracted them to the IIE-SRF model.
The conflict in Syria has become the 21st century’s worst humanitarian crisis. The numbers are staggering:
- Over 300,000 killed
- close to 4.5 million refugees
- more than 9 million internally displaced peoples
Combined, that’s over half of Syria’s pre-war population.
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
The Institute of International Education (IIE) recently released new Open Doors data showing that the number of international students coming to the United States had jumped by 10 per cent to total almost 1 million students from more than 200 countries.
On October 19th, IIE Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF) supporters and guests celebrated the art and work of IIE-SRF alumna Jumana Jaber at a reception at IIE’s headquarters in New York City. Dr. Jaber is a Syrian artist and professor of visual art and design whose artwork has been exhibited in Poland, the United States, and Syria, including at the Syrian Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of Damascus. Her portfolio spans architecture, interior design, and the foundations of Islamic art, including pieces that explore the relationship between ancient and contemporary architecture in Syria.
Here in Germany it is clear that they cannot take all refugees traveling their direction, or even all that have already arrived. It is also clear that Angela Merkel is in real trouble for trying, and that the Germans in the higher education space want their country to lead the way in helping.
Daniela Kaisth, Vice President for External Affairs and IIE Initiatives, and I were honored to represent the Institute at a celebration in Berlin for the 90th anniversary of the founding of the German Academic Exchange Service, or DAAD.
Our experience suggests that fragile states cannot succeed without major investments in higher education. Accordingly, neglecting academic needs during and after armed conflict raises the risk of failure once peace is restored—with security implications for the rest of the world. As noted by IIE Vice President Daniela Kaisth, “there is widespread recognition that education at all levels must be protected during war for the vital role it plays in preserving leadership, stabilizing societies, and once conflict subsides, rebuilding peaceful and prosperous communities.”