Syrian army in Aleppo George Ourfalian/Stringer

Educating Syria’s Rebuilders

The Syrian rebel stronghold of Aleppo has now been retaken by government forces, and we can expect to see more people displaced elsewhere in the country. Unless young refugees can gain an education, they will be unable to reconstruct their homeland when the time comes to return.

LONDON – In Aleppo, the devastated Syrian city and former rebel stronghold that has now been retaken by Syrian government forces, there was a glimmer of hope even as the bombs were falling. Amid the ruins, learning endured, as 15 young Syrians prepared for their university exams. They could not walk to a college campus, because so many of the country’s universities have been reduced to rubble. But they could still earn their degrees, thanks to a unique online program made available by the University of the People (UoPeople).

Every week, the Syrian students participate in online courses alongside pupils and instructors from around the world. Through these virtual classrooms, they pursue their chosen degree in business administration, computer science, or health science. The courses are so well prepared that many of these highly motivated students will be invited to attend Western universities later in their studies.

The UoPeople’s program has been a rapid success. Its enrollees currently include 500 Syrians – half of whom are still holed up in their war-torn homeland, while the other half are refugees – and 6,000 other students, from almost 200 countries. The UoPeople’s inventive model was developed by the education entrepreneur Shai Reshef, and has been endorsed by some of the world’s most renowned academics.

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