Achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals has been one of the most important targets of many governments and humanitarian organizations. Of particular significance is Goal 4 (SGD4), which is to “ensure equitable quality education and promote life-long learning opportunities for all” by 2030. Including the word all means that SDG4 will not be achieved whilst certain peoples are excluded.
Among the people who are implicitly excluded are Syrians who remain inside their country. Syria has been sanctioned by many countries for over eight years. The lists of sanctions are wide and cover restriction on goods, cultural property, airports and aircraft and many other categories (see OFAC and EU sanctions). The consequences of these sanctions have drastically impacted many aspects of people’s lives inside Syria, including education.
Since flights between Syria and the countries imposing sanctions have been stopped, it has been almost impossible for Syrian educators to participate in international conferences outside the country. Consequently, they have been deprived of exchanging experiences and insights. Due to the end of international collaboration with Syrian public universities, teaching staff and postgraduate students no longer have access to a lot of research databases.
Moreover, after cutting diplomatic relations with Syria, a lot of countries closed their cultural centers which used to provide the necessary language tests for university admissions and scholarship applications. While many Syrian students travel to neighboring countries to take the tests, this journey can be very costly and stressful. Not giving Syrian students the chance to take those language tests inside their country contradicts Target 4.B of the SDG 4 which is to “substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries” by 2020 (SDG4education).
Last but not least, the sanctions have also been even affecting virtual learning, as some online learning platforms have been banned for Syrians: such as Coursera.
The sanctions placed upon Syria have hindered any attempt to achieve social justice in terms of the redistribution of opportunities and resources. Questions remain as to whether policy makers are aware of the effect of the sanctions on the education of Syrians. They must take into account the lives of everyday Syrians and their aspirations when reviewing the goals of sanctions.
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