As former President of the Republic Jorge Sampaio remains critically ill in hospital, Expresso reports that more than 200 Afghan girls and women are hoping desperately to be accepted into Portugal to study under the humanitarian platform he created during the war in Syria (click here).
In just nine days since the platform announced it would be expanding to give scholarships to female Afghan students, response has been pouring in.
“Support requested to universities, centres of investigation, foundations and businesses has exceeded expectations”, says Expresso.
Very soon, a fund-raising effort will get underway.
The platform’s secretary-general Helena Barroco explains that online applications are open, but the programme is essentially “still in preparation, with the recruitment of partners and support”.
Here too, response has “exceeded expectations”.
Dr Sampaio clearly found the time before he became so ill to appeal to the platform’s ‘partners’, official entities, universities etc., asking them to make support available for women who will be deprived of any chances in their own country now that the Taliban regime has returned.
Helena Barroco told Expresso: “All I can say is that the appeal was well received and we are getting very positive feedback from key partners” – the majority of which are universities.
There has also been a positive response from “private individuals, businesses and other organisations”.
Ms Barroco did give a clue as to how fund-raising would begin. Says Expresso, the plan is to involve the “global university community, through the YES FUND (Youth Education Solidarity Fund).
“This is based on a simple idea”, she told the paper. “If each student contributes one euro to this fund every year they matriculate, as there are around 235 million students at university throughout the world, we should find ourselves raising that amount in euros annually to benefit students from societies in conflict or hit by humanitarian crises…”
Since 2014, the Global Platform 4 Syrian Students has managed to fund over 650 annual scholarships. Around 135 Syrians have concluded their degrees (including Masters and Doctorates), the majority of them in Portugal, but also in the Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, France, Germany, Canada and the United States.
Almost all the graduates have either managed to get jobs or are continuing with their studies.
The plan, in helping Afghan girls and young women, is to continue looking after Syrian students as well.
Said Helena Barroco, there are still around a hundred scholarship students being helped by the Platform who have not yet completed their degrees. And, as she stressed, “the humanitarian situation in Syria remains catastrophic, marked by a shortage of essential goods, dizzying inflation, unemployment, lack of education, lack of work opportunities, corruption and cronyism”.
Syria’s precarious situation has not been helped by “the disastrous situation in Lebanon”, she added, where over 80% of the country is now living in what has been classified as “multidimensional poverty”.