The intensity and tragedy of Syria’s civil war defies comprehension. Millions of civilians have fled the country and many young people are bearing the brunt of this war — especially because they don’t have access to education.
Through the turmoil, many Syrian youths lost their right to learn. As the civil war enters its sixth painful year, the country faces the prospect that a traumatized generation will grow up without the skills needed to rebuild the country when war finally ends.
As a country, the U.S. should try to help young Syrians. And as a University that prides itself on its international focus, GW should lead the rest of our nation. A University-supported program to accept and enroll students from refugee communities would set an important precedent for other U.S. universities to follow.
GW’s admission of refugees would strengthen the University’s strong international programs. Admitted refugee students would make interpersonal connections with other GW students, creating a succession of classes filled with graduates who have personal connections to the refugee crisis. It would also set a precedent for other U.S. schools, which would create more opportunities for refugees to earn degrees.
The program’s beneficiaries would gain the knowledge and skills that Syria’s war has left them without. For those who eventually choose to return to the country where they were born, a college education — no matter the field of study — would benefit Syria’s future political climate.
Cooperation with resettlement organizations like the International Rescue Committee could help GW administrators accomplish such a plan by identifying motivated refugees whose educations have been interrupted by war.
Current students would also need to get involved with a refugee admissions program. They would foster a healthy, welcoming campus environment for refugee students. Students at GW are already driven to support this cause: Some students founded an organization on campus last year called No Lost Generation, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the Syrian war.
GW could be the first university in the U.S. to implement a program like this, but there is already a standard for similar programs in other countries. Canada has already set an admirable standard for refugees’ admission to Canadian universities: Last year, four prominent Canadian universities partnered with the resettlement agency, Lifeline Syria, which aims to settle 1,000 refugees in the Toronto area in the coming years. The schools have pledged to sponsor 75 families, with “hundreds of student volunteers…looking at possible housing options for the refugees and helping to update a refugee resettlement handbook.”
With driven administrators and an involved student body, awareness about refugees can be translated into action at GW. The benefits of admitting refugees to the University would be multifold for both current students and potential refugee students. It is simply the right thing to do for a group who lost their chance at higher education.
Claude Khalife, a senior majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.