American Univesity of Beirut

Certificate program for young refugees facilitates entry to higher education

​​​Sally Abo​​u Melhem,, Office of Communications

AUB’s Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS), with the support of King’s College London, is implementing the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA) Foundation Certificate Program, that prepares Syrian refugee and vulnerable host community youth for entry into higher education. The graduation ceremony for the first cohort of this program was held in July 2018, where graduating students received a certificate of achievement for their commitment and dedication during the eight-month program.

In his comment, CCECS Director Rabih Shibli stated that “less than 1% of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon are enrolled in tertiary education, a bleak reality that raises concerns regarding the future of post-war Syria. The PADILEIA program tackles this challenge by facilitating Syrian youth access to renowned higher educational institutions where they gain the necessary skills to actively participate in the reconstruction process of their home country.”

Funded by UK AID and SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform), and implemented in a “Ghata School” (portable school by CCECS) in the Beqaa, the program provides two semesters of foundational skills in English and humanities, math, science, and digital skills. The curriculum was developed by AUB faculty members with the support of King’s College London for an online component constituting 25% of the program. Part-time instructors teach the in-person class hours for each subject with training and supervision provided by the same AUB faculty members who developed the curricular modules.

Students attend class four to five days a week for four hours a day. The English, humanities, and soft skills curricula are geared towards preparing students to be ethical leaders committed to the betterment of their societies. A student services and learning support coordinator is present on site to provide assistance to students and part-time instructors. Students are assisted holistically with academic follow-up, psychosocial support, and guidance on the transition to further education or employment.

During the graduation ceremony, graduates delivered speeches in English showcasing the language skills they acquired through the program. Additionally, the digital skills class presented the PADILEIA website and a video they developed with the support of their local instructor as their class’s final project. Another student did a presentation on two scientific experiments she learnt during the science class.

Rama Sheikh Rajab, one of the graduates, shared her thoughts on the impact the program has had on the students: “Despite the fact that we sometimes feel like we have lost hope, we can be strong and feel encouraged that we can be reborn every day like the brilliant sun. This takes courage. But it is the same kind of courage that allowed us to finish this year, that allowed us to pass, and that allowed us to stand here, in front of you all. We will continue to pursue our goals, to achieve peace and education.”

Graduating students earn a non-credit-bearing university certificate from AUB, and more importantly, they are prepared to enter or re-enter university.

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