(Rome, 1 February 2019) Last 15 January 2019 the University of Duhok and the Duhok Polytechnic University, with an official ceremony, celebrated the opening of two offices at the core of their campuses: the Refugee Student Operational Support Unit or R-SOS Unit.
After two years of activities, trainings for local partner universities staff and study visits performed in Europe, the University of Duhok and the Duhok Polytechnic Universities are ready. University rooms and laboratories are well equipped and the staff is prepared for being operational. The main task of R-SOS units will be supporting and guiding refugees, IDPs and the local communities of students in their seek for academic opportunities and resuming their academic training paths.
The ceremony has been as well an occasion for International Organizations and National Governmental bodies to confirm their commitment and support for the project. Then a visit to the refugees’ camp Domiz 1 took place and remarked the willingness to link the project with the current context of Iraq, and be in a “listening mode” towards the potential beneficiaries of the projects.
The R-SOS units
The R-SOS Units will have an orienting and mentoring function, and help all the students potentially interested in applying for academic opportunities by providing access to opportunities, facilitating the knowledge of on-going scholarship programmes, promoting mobility projects and exchanges, but it is important to underline that they will never provide directly scholarships.
The R-SOS – that has no ambition of reinventing the wheel rather of putting all the wheels in the right place – aims at avoiding further fragmentation and duplication of initiatives. So, on the operational side, the R-SOS aims at acting as a magnet for non-governmental organizations – NGOs, international actors, and other Universities in Iraq as well as in the MENA region, and attract possible opportunities to be disseminated. The staff of the units will receive, check, store and disseminate the obtained information and will help those interested in getting more info, apply, enter in contact with relevant opportunities.
The International and Governmental commitment
On the 15 Januray, the opening ceremony has been signed by the presence of representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – UNHCR, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund – UNICEF and German International Cooperation Agency – GIZ local offices, that confirmed their willingness to cooperate with the R-SOS staff and use the R-SOS facilities. Then the presence of national representatives from the Duhok Governorate , that is an associated partner of RESCUE project, was crucial in order to guarantee the necessary national commitment and guarantee the success of R-SOS future activities.
RESCUE informative session at DOMIZ 1 Refugee Camp
In the afternoon of the 15th January, the partners of RESCUE and R-SOS staff moved to Domiz 1 camp where they held an informative session with Syrian refugees, to raise the awareness on the services offered by the R-SOS units and receive first feedbacks from them. The meeting was attended by around 60 camp refugees, plus the vice-manager of the camp and representatives from International Organizations such as UNHCR.
The importance of working actively to create connections with refugees camp shows the ambition of the RESCUE project to immediately enter the field of concreteness and allow future beneficiaries to access to the newly opened R-SOS.
The RESCUE project
Two years ago, the R-SOS units were just an idea on paper, far from the reality. In January 2019 this idea has been translated into concrete actions, with the presence in two Iraqi universities that will be in charge of guaranteeing the sustainability of the services offered, as they have been trained to have an impact on their society.
The opening of the R-SOS has been the first, tangible and concrete result of the RESCUE (Refugees Education Support in Mena Countries) project funded in the framework of Erasmus+ Capacity building activities. The project involves partners from Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, but also Germany and Turkey, which are experiencing a very critical situation due to the high number of refugees present on their territory, mostly from Syria, and include a high percentage of former University students who had to interrupt their academic careers
RESCUE project has been thought to help higher education institutions from the partner countries involved in it, in structuring an effective response to this situation by creating ad hoc units (the Refugee Student Operational Support Unit – R-SOS), whose mission is to structure specific services supporting the refugee students in resuming their academic training path.
With the launching of the two R-SOS units fully operational in Iraq, RESCUE project has accomplished with the first of its objectives, which is milestone in and keeps motivating the partners and the beneficiaries of the project to work towards the achievement of further results.
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