Scotland has committed to resettle 2000 Syrian refugees as part of the UK government Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme by 2020. Over the course of the last 3 years, of the newly arrived Syrian refugees, there are over 230 individuals resettled in Edinburgh. They have arrived from the refugee camps in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. Amongst them, a group of 25 individuals are teenagers (12-18 years old). This group has had to endure severe hardships before they arrive in Scotland where many of them have been denied education due to the difficulty of accessing educational facilities at the refugee camps. However, this group has the potential to be amazingly resilient if they are given the proper support towards integrating with a new language and educational system in Scotland.
Edinburgh University, represented by the Chaplaincy and in corporation with the long-established Syrian community in Edinburgh, have launched a tutoring initiative that is first of its kind in Scotland, and the UK. The initiative aims to pair university students with Syrian teenage refugees in a tutorial relationship. The university students tutor the teenagers in their school subjects, as well as supporting their English language, education and social integration. Tutors are Arabic-speaking university students, who have been drawn mostly from the Middle Eastern Studies department and from the Edinburgh University Islamic Society. These students have enjoyed improving their Arabic language skills in their interaction with the teenagers. Non-Arabic speaking students with special subject skills have also joined the group to tutor.
Activities for Syrian teenager refugees tutoring scheme focus on learning English and helping with homework in many subject areas. Furthermore, the scheme promotes school success, building social connections with their tutors, encouraging community engagement and navigating adaptation to a new society.
Despite the difficulties of coping with transition issues, the tutoring scheme has achieved remarkable success for those who joined back in January 2017. The great effort of the tutors to provide age-appropriate language, literacy and homework help is reflected in higher marks being achieved at school. The scheme has also focused on building confidence and self-esteem, organising social activities to reduce social isolation and nurturing supportive friendships both between teenagers and the tutoring peers. This short video highlights the positive impact of the project:
Sohaib Ashraf, a tutor and second year International Relations student, says,
One of the biggest inspirations for me is the idea of education, and communicating its importance for our lives and futures. For most of the Syrian teenagers, education was missing for them before they came to Edinburgh. Therefore, equipping them with the key tools is what the ethos of the programme is about.
The Chaplaincy and Dr Amer Masri have been delighted with the strong sense of community that has emerged around the project since it began, and in the capacity of the students to build up an excellent tutoring team full of creativity, as well as care for the teenagers’ wellbeing.
More information on the project can be found here: