On the Verge of Transition

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

– The Syrian Expatriate

By Laura Fawaz

IMG_0007

Livonia, MI–“I think what happened in Syria is exactly what happened in the rest of the Arab World.  It’s the results of long term torture and oppression by the current regime,” said Ammar Ghanem, of Indiana, with the Syrian National Council, when speaking about the effect of the Arab Spring on Syria.

Last Saturday, the Syrian Expatriate, along with the Syrian National Council, held a seminar called “On The Verge of Transition, a Meeting With The Syrian National Council, at Burton Manor in Livonia.” 
The seminar focused on the Syrian National Council’s (SNC) integration within Syrian Communities across the world.  The SNC’s focus was for the Syrian community, especially in Metro-Detroit, to meet the SNC and the Syrian Expatiate. 

SNC board member Louay Sakka of Canada explained that they are hoping “for an exchange of ideas, and to discuss the future of Syria.”

Ghanem added, “The main objective is trying to help the people inside Syria, and to help drive forward the Syrian Revolution.”

Attendees were asking questions and exploring options for Syria with the SNC, as part of the seminar that was divided into four topics: The structure and the way the SNC is currently working, the economics of the Syrian Revolution and options to weaken the regime, discussing the political work being done, and lastly, international protection and interaction to protect civilians in Syria.

Ghanem explained that the plans for this event have been in the works for five weeks, and were necessary because “the people of Syria couldn’t take it anymore, and they want to up rise and want to get rid of the current regime.  Who doesn’t want freedom?”

Asked if most Metro-Detroit Syrians feel the same way about the current Syrian political party, Sakaa replied, “most of the people in general already get to a point where they are completely against the regime.  Having said that, it doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page.  You still have people who get some type of benefit from this regime, directly or indirectly.” 

According to Sakaa, since the rest of the world is primary against the current political Syrian party, the Arab League has just removed Syria.  After this, it seems as though most Syrians are feeling the isolation, and is why less people are working with the Syrian government. 

Some of course still support the current Syrian regime. So the SNC when asked whether anyone came out and showed disagreement with this event, they explained that Burton Manor received anonymous threatening phone calls. 

The SNC took extra precautions, including having the Livonia Police Department all around the building, as well as having their own security on board.

As the rest of the Arab World has shown this past year, we truly cannot know what is happening inside country lines until it all unravels.  So for now, attending events such as this will be our closest entry point. 

13-48

Every Child Left Behind

April 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

child-desk-400The allure of the Middle East, for western foreigners, is primarily found in monetary perks that makes life in the region more financially savvy than back at home.  First of all, skilled and specialized workers from the US and Europe stand to earn three to four times more money than could be earned at home and they face less job competition. Second, not having to pay taxes and enjoying heavily governmentally subsidized utilities as well as health care are added bonuses. However, what most expatriates do not realize is that there is a heavy price to be paid. And it is in the form of the education of their children.

Wealthy Middle Eastern countries like Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE provide a cradle-to-grave welfare system that keeps their citizens living a very comfortable life with free education only being one out of hundreds of social benefits. Expatriate children are not allowed to attend public schools which are reserved exclusively for the children of the citizens of the country. Expatriate parents must put their children in private schools which are often costly, poorly managed, overcrowded and understaffed. Many Gulf nations are host to several European and American private schools which boast a curriculum on par with the most exclusive schools in the world. Unfortunately, the tuition fees are so high that many expatriate parents can only afford to send one child, if any, to school while the others must attend less expensive private schools. And that is in the event that the child can even get into the school.

For countries, like Kuwait for example, private schools are regulated by the Ministry of Education. Each school is ranked according to student performance and receives special preference as well as accolades based on the percentage of students that do well. What is unfortunate is that most private schools in Kuwait require an admission test to ensure that only the best and brightest students get admission which guarantees a high percentage of student performance. Prospective students are not given a book or even a manual to study from in preparation for the test. All they can do is hope that they have the knowledge to pass it. For those who do not pass, they will most probably miss an entire school year or more. Until a student can pass the admission test there is no hope that his journey for a quality education can begin.

What is painfully ironic is that, while there are stringent controls for the admission of students to private schools, there are no such requirements for the hiring of teachers. The private schools in Kuwait, and other regions of the Gulf, are full of teachers who do not possess college degrees and have little experience teaching in the classroom. It is not uncommon for housewives to become teachers without having even a basic college degree. And for many teachers who do possess a “degree”, a careful inspection of the document will most likely reveal that it is a fake certificate obtained from a country in Southeast Asia. So even for children who do pass the admission test, the catch 22 is that the standard is far less than what the school administration purports.

For Shermyla Mohammad, a housewife and mother in Kuwait, her journey to enroll her son in school has been a twisted battle that has spanned more than five years. “My son studied the Holy Quran for several years and met with a tutor to teach him school subjects privately at home.” When her son was ten years old she began visiting various schools in order to enroll him. He is now fifteen years old and has never seen the inside of the classroom. “My son failed several admission tests because he could not prepare for the specific questions asked. One time he did pass but the school administration refused to accept him because the percentage was not high enough.” Her son is waiting to take yet another admissions test in the hopes that he can finally begin his education.

There are countless numbers of children all across the Gulf region who deserve an education but it remains out of reach. It is a basic human right to be able to attend school and not be barred from an education that will most certainly define every aspect of life and determine its quality.

13-15