Educational Challenges in Syria

The Borgen Project: ‘The Education Crisis in Syria’ accessible in <https://borgenproject.org/education-crisis-in-syria/>

Syria’s educational system has faced challenges for a long time, but the situation improved before the war’s outbreak in 2011. In the decades that preceded the crisis, the educational sector in Syria was witnessing improvements concerning school and university enrolments. Nevertheless, the Syrian government was, at the time, taking initiatives and showing interest in fighting illiteracy as well as increasing the number of primary and preparatory schools throughout the country. 

Following the outbreak of the civil war, Syrian children of all ages were left without access to education. According to recent data published, there are more than 2.4 million Syrian children currently out of school.

 

Syrian children are currently facing several challenges that make it extremely difficult to attend their school or continue their education. The conflict has led to people’s displacement from their homes, poverty, and the inability of families to pay for school materials. In addition, the Syrian civil war has dangerously normalized and dramatically increased the issue of child labour. The stories shared by some of the affected children highlight the gravity of their situation. Issa, a 12-year-old boy, expressed his feeling of bitterness when he could not attend school for years after his family was displaced due to the war. Or Salim, a victim of displacement and child labour who was forced to seek refuge in Lebanon, where he currently works daily carrying potato bags. 

Albeit the employment of children under the age of 15 is illegal under Syrian legislation, no prominent governmental initiatives have been taken in the past few years to address this issue. However, UNICEF is taking steps to tackle the problem by adopting and implementing friendly policies designed to assist Syrian children in the enjoyment of their rights. 

A 2012 International Labour Organisation report recommended the Syrian national legislation to reform and impose further regulatory norms in the field of children’s work. The report also highlights how Syrian penalty laws are not severe enough to prevent employers from hiring children. Although the Syrian crisis slowed down the ILO’s work, in 2018, it adopted a ‘multi-sectoral approach’ to prevent child labour. This approach is meant to protect children’s rights to education and livelihood. It is also led and coordinated by several parties, including the Syrian Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, as well as the United Nations. Perhaps this multi-sided tactic, including a governmental representative, will reduce the number of children who are working rather than attending school. 

Unfortunately, Syria’s educational system faces other challenges as well. One of these is the limited access to electricity. The electrical energy infrastructure in Syria was damaged severely after the crisis, leaving most cities in the country, such as Aleppo and Damascus, without electricity for most hours of the day. Most schools in Syria were affected, and students had to struggle in dark classrooms. However, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and UNICEF intervened in some places and saved the situation. For instance, in Aleppo, ECHO and UNICEF supplied 30 schools with solar panels, a successful step that positively changed the situation for students and teachers.

Nonetheless, implementing solar panels in all schools throughout the country is lengthy and costly. Since students of all age groups need electricity at home to prepare for exams, it would also fail to solve the issue in its entirety. The situation is undoubtedly precarious, but the government can take initiatives to assist students to study in more adequate conditions. Both the UN and ECHO could provide public city libraries with solar panels for electricity generation. This would allow students to learn in quiet and well-lit surroundings, thus contributing to their educational success. 

Another major challenge in Syria’s educational sector is the severe lack of fuel which directly affects students’ capabilities to access educational institutions. The Covid-19 pandemic, in addition, forced schools and universities to shut down for months, leading to the dropping out of a vast number of students. 

As mentioned above, UNICEF is taking several steps to improve these circumstances and combat the so-called ‘lost generation’. According to recently published data, UNICEF has not only been active in Syria throughout the past ten years but has also helped over 1.5 million children since 2016 by providing them with study materials and better chances for education. Furthermore, UNESCO has played an active role in Syria by launching several platforms to support Syrian children, psychologically as well as educationally. An example of this can be seen in the creation of “The Second Chance Program” by CapED, which assists the students who failed their final exams in retaking these during the summer, thereby providing them with a second opportunity to move onto the next grade. 

Overall, the situation in Syria is chaotic and complex, and governmental administrations fail to prioritise education. According to a report published by The Middle East Institute in 2022, the limited and short-term nature of the funding, insufficiency and inefficiency of data collection, and the delays in the embracement of new approaches are significant factors hampering Syria’s educational success. Education in Syria is in dire need of funding and rebuilding to improve students’ situations and guarantee their basic human rights. 

 

Written by Noor Mousa 

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato 

A Guide to Writing Proposals for European Union Projects: A Presentation by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform

Introduction

On the 14th of April 2022, several organizations joined online for a Zoom webinar that focused on guiding them on how to choose, write, and coordinate project proposals in line with the calls for funding requested by bodies of the European Union. The meeting was hosted by the Intercultural Dialogue Platform (IDP), introduced by its Executive Director Mehmet A. Bayrak as a non-profit civil society organization based in Brussels, focused on achieving a mutual understanding and harmonious coexistence amongst individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. So far, it has conducted three large scale and successful Horizon projects.[1] Following this, Mehmet introduced the main speaker of the webinar, Ludmila Malai, the IDP EU Project Manager. She is educated in politics and international law, and for the last few years has coordinated projects around extremism, identity building, and cultural dialogue.

 

A Call for Proposals

Ludmila started by explaining that, to find new calls for proposals, one must view the European Commission’s website under the ‘Find call for funding – by topic’ section, using the platform to search for projects that are of interest to an organization, choosing from calls that are either still open or forthcoming in the criteria options. This will still result in too many visible calls, so she suggested adding further criteria by programme type such as: Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values (CERV), Horizon 2020, EU External Action, Digital Europe Programme, Connecting Europe Facility, Gender Equality, calls coming from the European Parliament, Asylum Migration & Integration Fund; Erasmus+ Programmes, Creative Europe, and so on. As a sidenote, she explains that, although Horizon 2020 programmes are at the forefront of EU projects, it is highly research-based and requires a firm background in the chosen topic or a consortium of partners that can achieve innovative outcomes, a factor that is further expanded on below.

Since the current trend for European programmes has shifted to increasingly involve not only public authorities but also civil actors, she decides to use CERV as the primary example for civil society organizations seeking to submit proposals in line with their values or mission statement, such as the current ‘Call for Proposals to Protect & Promote the Rights of the Child’.[2] From this call, it is crucial that any organizations firstly check the deadline model, which can either be a single-stage submission that requires submitting just the ‘Project proposal – Technical description (Part B)’ or a multiple-stage process which requires an organization to submit various documents at different stages. In the case of this call, the deadline model is of a single-stage, and has a deadline of approximately a month until the submission process closes on the 18th of May 2022. Ludmila recommended that, to draw up a proposal document, one should leave approximately between 6-8 weeks, as a month is too tight and complicated to submit a well-drawn up proposal. The next section examines the budget overview which displays an indicative (total) budget available of €3,010,000 to fund all the projects that end up accepted, giving any organization a good indication about what can be reasonably proposed and allows for better preparation.

 

The Call Document

After viewing these details, Ludmila emphasises that, prior to writing a proposal, an organization should rigorously study what is known as the ‘Call Document’. The document provides clear guidelines to match projects with what the European Commission will ultimately grant funding towards. Continuing with the call document of children’s rights,[3] one should start by looking at the ‘Eligibility’ criteria, namely: that your organization is a legal entity of a public or private nature; it is established in particular regions or countries of the EU or non-EU countries associated with the CERV programme or countries which are in ongoing negotiations for an association agreement and where the agreement enters into force before the grant signature; that, if the organization is profit-oriented, then it must submit applications in partnership with public entities or private NPOs; that the proposed project can be either be conducted in a national or transnational context (in the case of the latter, it requires that at least two different European countries are participating in the project – one of whom may be the organization coordinating the project as was required in this case); that the EU grant applied for cannot be lower than €75,000 (the minimum budget being asked for any proposal being submitted); and that the beneficiaries and affiliated entities must register in the ‘Participant Register’ before submitting the proposal and will have to be validated by the Central Validation Service.

When asked about the right budget (in this case beyond the €75,000 minimum budget and the maximum indicative budget of €3,000,000), Ludmila replied that it is all about how cost-effective the project activities are and suggested that organizations should not ask too much nor too little, but that it remains context-dependent (on the goals of the project). For example, creating a guide, toolkit, or handbook would require a certain amount of calculation for the different features included, but is independent from the other proposed actions, like implementing 20 training sessions for youth workers may require you to ask for €100,000. It may even be the case that you propose an action that requires €2,000,000 to implement a policy of school meals to tackle food security, in line with the proposal.

By satisfying these requirements, the organization can then move on to reading the content of the call, consisting of its background, objectives, the themes and priorities, the appropriate activities, and the expected impacts of any activities or deliverables that form a core part of your proposed project. Ludmila explained what these sections involve in turn.

 

Background

This section refers to the context that the call is founded upon, in terms of why such a call was proposed, its origin, and what main issues are tackled. Ludmila emphasises that it is crucial for a proposal to be centred around the needs and assessment of the call background, which proves that the project really understands the field of the call itself and ensures it is in line with any particular documents that are drafted by the European Commission, such as, in this case, the ‘EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child’.

 

Objectives

The scope of the objectives for any proposal should be to support, advance and implement a set of comprehensive policies that aim to protect and promote the rights of the child and policies, as well as making sure once again that these objectives fit the initiatives supported in the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child.

 

Theme & Priorities

Ludmila explains the importance for organizations to carefully choose what you want to tackle in terms of the proposal’s priorities. The sentence structure could look like: ‘This call for proposals will contribute to’, for instance, ‘protecting children against exploitative behaviour’, or ‘expanding the access of children to social services, health, a safe environment of work and play, a quality education’ and so on. This shows that a proposal has conducted a clear reading of the major themes and priorities being addressed within the call document and is structured to match the document throughout the proposal.

 

Activities

Ludmila noted that it is easy to come together as an organization or consortium to brainstorm a number of activities to conduct during a project’s lifecycle; however, you may come up with a good activity which does not match the activities that will be funded within the call document, so it is highly advisable to adapt to what the call is asking for, which, in this case, comprises mutual learning, teaching activities, capacity building, cooperation, identifying good practices, and awareness raising activities. The main drawback to suggesting activities that do not accomplish what the call document is describing is a loss of points in the proposal evaluation process, which will be discussed further below.

 

Expected Impact

After outlining the activities, they must be accompanied by the positive, tangible, and visible impacts that your project expects to see, bridging the connections to other actions within the project and the call document. Once again, you can propose good actions which do not generate the expected impacts in line with the call document, resulting in a risk of failure of the proposal. A major factor connected to this section is the time required for these impacts to emerge. If the impacts surpass the project’s lifecycle, which usually lasts between two to three years, then it is best to review the proposal and ensure that the actions result in impacts of a timely manner.

 

Evaluation of Proposals

Following the submission of a proposal, it will be evaluated to meet the threshold of points against three main elements, which may vary depending on the given call but which, in this case, are listed as 70 points to be awarded approval.[4] The three elements are as follows:

  • Relevance (40 points) which requires that a proposal can accomplish exactly what is expected from what is included in the call document and centred around the EU’s strategic and legislative contexts; the eligibility criteria; the use of results from other projects, studies, or national programmes; the level of replicability of your project in other contexts and domestic settings; the appropriate inclusion of gender perspectives; and whether the proposal has a transnational dimension. Therefore, it is essential to adhere to this element, especially because it can destabilise a proposal given the fact that out of all three elements, relevance requires any proposal to attain 25 points out of the total 40 for the funding to be granted.

 

  • Quality (40 points) means that a proposal should be well written in terms of the logical links to identified problems, needs, and solutions mentioned in the call document. This requires the development of what is called a logical frame concept. It includes the chosen methodology for implementing the project; incorporating a gender perspective; maintaining a firm coherence throughout the proposal; acknowledging ethical issues; showing a high rate of visibility in terms of the time proposed for impacts; and considering a coherently reasonable proposed budget results in the best value for money.

 

  • Impact (20 points). Here, Ludmila explains that European projects are usually funded for a maximum of two or three years, so they usually have a short lifecycle that may lead to a limited amount of publicity for chosen projects. This why any project should establish platforms or pathways that extend the lifecycle of the project beyond their completion, buttressing the project with strong elements of sustainable end goals that can be easily replicated in other contexts, as well as incorporating open access mechanisms for methods and data that are freely accessible to others.

These elements are critical to any project being awarded funding. Ludmila concludes that given the increased inflation of proposals being submitted for calls, a proposed project must visibly show a high quality that stands out amongst other proposed projects. Therefore, it pays off to spend as much time and effort on drawing up a proposal that captures the attention of the evaluators because it fits all the criteria, aims to provide deliverables, activities, and impacts in line with the call document, and goes the extra mile by incorporating mechanisms that sustains the effective outcomes of the projects for other future projects that can springboard off its results.

 

Structuring Your Proposal

When necessary, another crucial factor is for the coordinating organization to search for other partner organizations, establishing what is called a consortium that displays a clear capacity of implementing the proposed project, asking which organizations can add a high quality of value to your project. These may be civil society organizations that address specific issues, public bodies, institutions, schools, centres and so on. In this sense, partners that have experience in the topic of choice, will directly impact the credibility of the project by helping to achieve its goals, needs, and effects. Likewise, during the search, the organization should target partners located in other countries that vocalise the issues addressed in the call document. For example, if the call addresses antisemitism, then the countries that the organizations ought to look at would be France, Germany, or Poland. The key is to aim for diversity, because the more variety there is in the consortium network, the more likely it would be to instil a variety of experiences and activities that can generate amazing work packages that will show positive results.

The next step should be forming a solid definition of the problem the project will tackle, engaging in research analysis of what current gaps exist in recent research, finding a methodology which matches the call, conducting brainstorming sessions for activities, developing a visual idea of the project plan, creating a timetable, consulting with the whole team, and engaging in feedback channels that ensure no elements are left out from the overall plan.

The submission document itself requires a name, a technical outline that clearly describes the proposed project, a project summary, the elements of relevance, quality, communicating the expected impacts, the chosen methodology, background, and so on. It will also require a management plan that explains how the coordinator will establish quality control, such as by adopting high standards and monitoring mechanisms that measure the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of impacts that will display the success of the project. Other measures include the avoidance of producing unknown facts from project activities through risk management procedures that link actions with security measures that show how these elements are addressed in a smooth manner, as well as possibly drawing up a work plan for the work packages set with a timetable that outlines a realistic timeline to implement actions.

 

Important Tips

Nearing the end of Ludmilla’s presentation, a dedicated time for questions and answers led to her providing a few extra tips to further guide the writing and submission process of the proposal:

  • Always keep in mind the project objectives – It is easy to run ahead when generating ideas and having a lot of enthusiasm, but it may end up with taking a wrong turn in the process or providing a project that is not coherent with your objectives.

 

  • Avoid complicated sentences – It is better to stick to clear ideas and keeping the proposal simple, through devoting time in evaluating the project to ensure that is it of good quality. Formulating it in an uneasy way may lead to a loss of points because evaluators might get tired of reading your proposal and ideas. Clarity can be accomplished through using bullet points for objects, activities, or any particular points that may need to be emphasised. Even difficult issues can be explained easily, even when avoiding simple vocabulary. It is encouraged to use necessary academic terms, especially in the case of Horizon 2020 projects, but ensuring that they are included in the proposal text in a way that does not tire the reader.

 

  • Initially, every process seems complicated – Along the various sections, the project will gradually become easier because, by integrating information, a routine will become established. This will naturally guide the choices and answers of what will be the most important information that you need to include, and, with time, you learn what you need to pay attention to and what you should prioritise. The process is meant to be an interesting experience of acquiring new information on topics that are currently relevant in society.

 

  • Proofreading – It is advisable that, if an organization would like to present a draft copy of the proposal to any external parties for proofreading, it should be ready two weeks before submitting the proposal to ensure that there is ample space and time for feedback and to make any necessary corrections. Likewise, if the organization is simply planning to share the draft with an external party that is already familiar with the proposed project, then a week suffices, but it is always optimal to have it ready in advance. It is also a good idea to finish the first draft in advance and take some time to relax after writing before returning to it after a few days. This will clear the head and potentially help you find new elements to include or remove.

 

  • Evaluation – Lastly, Ludmila mentioned that after submitting a project proposal, it takes between 4 to 6 months before the application results in an award. It is thus a lengthy process.

 

Written by Karl Baldacchino

Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato

 

___________________________

[1] More information can be found on their website at Dialogue Platform, ‘About – Dialogue Platform’. Available online from : https://dialogueplatform.eu/about-dialogue-platform/ [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[2] European Commission (2021a), ‘Funding and Tenders Portal – Call for proposals to protect and promote the rights of the child’. Available online from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/portal/screen/opportunities/topic-details/cerv-2022-child [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[3] European Commission (2021b) ‘Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV) – Call for proposals to protect and promote the rights of the child – CERV-2022-CHILD’. Available online from: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/cerv/wp-call/2022/call-fiche_cerv-2022-child_en.pdf [Accessed 16/04/2022].

[4] European Commission (2021b), p. 17.

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Ecuador

This report was drafted by Broken Chalk to contribute to the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Ecuador. Broken Chalk is an organization that fights against violations of Human Rights and improving the quality of education around the globe. This report will discuss the main challenges Ecuador faces in regard to Education, what are some issues that could be improved through Education, and finally Broken Chalk will offer some recommendations for Ecuador in the field of Education based on the raised issues.

In the 2017 review, Ecuador received 182 recommendations and supported 162 recommendations relating to legal and general framework of implementation, universal and cross-cutting issues, civil and political rights, economic, social, and cultural rights, women’s rights, and rights of other vulnerable groups and persons.

Ecuador has stated that efforts to guarantee the widest coverage and highest possible quality of education at all levels has been intensified. In fact, between the years 2007 and 2017, net enrolment in basic education increased from 91.4% to 96.1%, and net enrolment rate in upper-secondary school increased from 51.2% to 70.8%. Regarding the gender gap, education for women has risen much faster than for males, therefore the gender gap in schooling has almost been closed. Despite this, there are still improvements to be made, especially in quality of education and accessibility.

By Alejandra Latinez

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Cover image from: https://expatsecuador.com/living/schools/

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Finland

Broken Chalk is an Amsterdam-based NGO established in 2020 and is focused on raising awareness and minimising human rights violations in the educational field.

Together with our international sponsors and partners, we encourage and support the following activities/projects: removing obstacles in education; contributing to the achievement of peace and tranquillity in the society through adaptation studies in an environment of intercultural tolerance; preventing radicalism and polarisation; and eliminating the opportunity gap in education for all. Our goal is to work together with global partners to remove barriers to access to education and to take concrete steps to ensure universal access to education.

In this 4th Cycle Universal Periodic Review, Broken Chalk will be occupied with reviewing Finland’s challenges and improvements in the educational field. In the 3rd cycle, (September 2017) Finland received 153 recommendations and supported 120 (78% of acceptance).

By Maya Shaw

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Cover image from: https://venturevillage.world/role-of-teachers-in-the-education-system-in-finland/

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Morocco

Child domestics in Morocco face significant barriers to education before, during, and after working. Denial of the right to education leaves children without the skills and knowledge which they need to find good jobs, to participate fully in society, and to exercise their other rights. For child domestics, who frequently work in isolation, lack of education also means they miss its crucial role in socializing children and exposing them to potential sources of protection from workplace abuses.

By Ntchindi Chilongozi Theu

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41st_Session_UN_UPR_Country_Review_Morocco

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Bahrain

The right to education is a fundamental pillar of children’s rights. Achieving universal education, however, is a complex process that requires social policy to join with educational policy to develop strategies that bring about change. Bahrain is an island country located in western Asia, which, based on the projections of the latest United Nations data, has a population of about 1,773,831.

By Ntchindi Chilongozi Theu

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41st_Session_UN_UPR_Country_Review_Bahrain

Cover image from: https://bahrain.littlepearlsnursery.com/lpn-gallery/national-day-bahrain/

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: Brazil

This report has been drafted by Broken Chalk to contribute to the fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Brazil. Since Broken Chalk is an organization aimed at fighting inequalities and improving the quality of Education worldwide, this report will focus on Education. The report brings attention to the main and most outstanding issues that Brazil faces regarding the Right to Education. The report will also track the progress of the promises made by Brazil during the last UPR. In light of the following views, Broken Chalk shall offer Brazil recommendations for the improvement of the educational field.

Drafted by Aniruddh Rajendran
Edited by Olga Ruiz Pilato

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41st_Session_UN-UPR_Country_Review_Brazil

 

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: United Kingdom

Providing education is one of the most important functions of any government and while many countries’ educational systems face greater troubles than the UK’s, it is by no means without its flaws.

There are five stages that encompass the education system in the UK: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16. Further Education is not compulsory and covers non-advanced education held at education colleges and HE institutions. The fifth stage, HE, is further study that takes place in universities and other Higher Education Institutions. This article will discuss some of the main problems the UK is facing including its two-tiered education system, major class divide and lack of resources and money in disadvantaged schools.

By Kate Ryan

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Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: the Netherlands

The past five years since the Netherlands’ previous Universal Periodic Review (UPR) have seen developments in certain areas. There have been concrete actions to protect and fulfil the human right of everyone to education. Concurrently, however, evidence has been gathered of multiple violations of the right within the same timeframe. It is imperative for the Netherlands, as a human rights duty-bearer, to address the different forms of discrimination and marginalisation experienced by vulnerable groups, which hinder their access to education, as well as the multiple other challenges these groups face, whether the challenges are based on socio-economic grounds or otherwise.

Under national and international human rights law, the government of the Netherlands is under an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the right of every person to education, provide redress for the occurrence of such violations, and prevent them from happening.

By Farai Chikwanha

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Cover image from: https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2021/06/dutch-education-system-is-increasing-inequality-ser-says/

Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council: South Africa

Broken Chalk is a non-profit organization with one main goal – To protect human rights in the world of education. The organization started with a website and articles and currently it is working on multiple projects, each aiming to fight human rights violations in the educational sphere. As the UPR is related to human rights violations, inequalities, human trafficking, and other violations, Broken Chalk prepares this article for the fourth cycle and the specific country – South Africa.

During the last cycle, the delegation put forward 243 recommendations, South Africa supported 187 of them, and the rest they noted.1 Section B31 is the one that stands out as it is related to “Equality & non-discrimination” and South Africa supported all of the recommendations given. Some of them are related to the protection of different minorities. Support and education on the LGBTQ communities and attempts on reducing discrimination in the country. The recommendations given in 2017 will help Broken Chalk evaluate the performance of the specific country. This report will give an update on the previous issues related to education, plus recommendations on how to deal with new ones.

By Ivan Evstatiev

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Cover image from: https://www.newsweek.com/south-african-president-jacob-zuma-halt-university-fee-hikes-after-protests-386666