SERC recently hosted a UK Further and Higher Education system seminar entitled Education for All, for Syrian Refugees who have recently moved to Northern Ireland under the Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Resettlement Scheme.
The event was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland aimed at helping Syrian refugees who have fled or been forced out of their home and sought refuge here since the country’s civil war began in 2011, to understand the UK education system and qualification equivalency. The event was attended by representatives from the Department of Economy and Bryson Intercultural.
In 2015 the Prime Minister announced an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees would be resettled in the UK over the course of the current UK Parliament. As such, SERC is part of the Department for Communities consortium of local organisations who have been appointed to help deliver a range of services to the refugees and assist with their resettlement and integration.
The seminar included an overview of the Further and Higher Education System in the UK, vocational education, education provision at SERC, comparison of Syrian qualifications - UK NARIC, English classes available at the college, admissions process and a question and answer session. Arabic interpreters were available on the day.
SERC currently have over 40 Syrian refugees studying at the college and have helped twenty families settle into the Lisburn area. As most arrive with little or no English SERC were proactive and delivered formal ESOL classes to the local communities and provided pre ESOL classes for absolute beginners which were tailored to meet their needs to help them integrate into their local community.
The event was an opportunity for SERC to explain the education system in Northern Ireland and qualifications equivalency to the refugees. Attendees also availed of individual assessments with careers staff who offered guidance on pathways to skills development and training they would need to make a new life here.
SERCs international officer Zia Nazar said: “The aim of the event was to help settle the vulnerable refugees into the way of life here, helping to set them up with employment and family cohesiveness, during a time of turmoil. The scale of the Syrian refugee crisis and the challenge of mitigating a ‘lost generation’ of the education of Syrians is a critical one.
“Supporting the refugees in enrolling onto courses in the region, will be the first systematic project to be undertaken by the college. Since December 2015 we have helped 632 refugees settle here. We have over 40 current Syrian students studying at the college which emphasizes the importance of these sessions. In addition, we have other families housed within the SERC remit including eight families in Bangor and three in Downpatrick that we are currently working with."
The Syrian refugee crisis is now in its sixth year and has been described by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) as the largest humanitarian and refugee crisis of our time, with over 5 million people having fled Syria to the surrounding countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey since 2011, with 1 million having requested asylum in Europe.
According to UNHCR, 47.5 per cent of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18, reflecting the demographic in the region. In the surrounding host countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, approximately 1 million young Syrians are out of school.