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Table of Contents
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 96-102

Higher education and forced migration: An evaluation of psychosocial support provided for Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host community

PhD (Psychology), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Bonn and Eschborn, Germany

Date of Web Publication28-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Amina M Steinhilber
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Bonn and Eschborn
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_53_18

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Access to higher education as well as obtaining an academic degree is burdensome for Syrian refugees and socially disadvantaged Jordanians. The two social groups also show an increased vulnerability to mental disorders. The present study evaluates if the provided psychosocial support is socially and emotionally helpful for 75 students (35 Syrian refugees; 40 socially disadvantaged Jordanians) in a scholarship programme for Masters studies in Jordan. Both social groups were expected to report vulnerability to depression and anxiety. Females were assumed to be more vulnerable. Psychosocial support measures were presumed to be evaluated positively. Females were expected to evaluate academic support more positively than males, whereas Syrians were anticipated to perceive the social support more positively than Jordanians. A total of 21 Syrian and 22 Jordanian scholarship holders filled out a questionnaire for assessing their levels of depression and anxiety, ratings of the provided psychosocial support measures and perceived social support by staff of the scholarship programme. Quantitative data analysis confirmed the provided psychosocial support to be helpful. Psychosocial support is socially and emotionally helpful for Masters students of the given groups. Differences in gender and nationality should be considered, when designing psychosocial support measures.

Keywords: academia, psychosocial support, scholarship programme, socially disadvantaged Jordanians, Syrian refugees

How to cite this article:
Steinhilber AM. Higher education and forced migration: An evaluation of psychosocial support provided for Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host community. Intervention 2019;17:96-102

How to cite this URL:
Steinhilber AM. Higher education and forced migration: An evaluation of psychosocial support provided for Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host community. Intervention [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 May 29];17:96-102. Available from: http://www.interventionjournal.org//text.asp?2019/17/1/96/255361

  Introduction Top

The Syrian crisis led to a total of 655,624 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan by the end of 2017 (UNHCR, 2018). This adds to Jordan’s major socioeconomic challenges such as high unemployment rates and dependency on foreign aid and remittances from Gulf economies (IMC, 2017). As about 15% of Jordanians and 82% of Syrian refugees in Jordan fall below the poverty line, both groups require assistance, for example, for access to tertiary/higher education or health services.

Access to higher education and mental health

Before the outbreak of the Syrian war, 26% of its youth was enrolled in higher education (Al-Hawamdeh & El-Ghali, 2017). Among Syrian refugees in Jordan, this number reduced to 4.5% of the 18 to 24-year olds for the academic year 2015/2016. Among Jordanian youth, 22% have access to higher education (World Bank, 2009).

Refugees are at high risk for mental disorders (e.g. Fazel, Wheeler, & Danesh, 2005). About 74% of mental health diagnoses among Syrian refugees in Jordan are emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety (IMC, 2015). A representative study on the mental health and psychosocial needs of adult Syrian refugees and the Jordanian host community revealed that a reduced functioning in daily activities due to emotional stress is reported by 35% of urban Syrian refugees and by 24% of the Jordanian host community (IMC, 2017). Furthermore, being in distress is negatively associated with education level. This kind of distinction also applies to gender. Females report higher levels of reduced functioning in daily activities due to emotional stress than males. Generally, the current data availability on mental health disorders in Jordan is poor. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no reliable prevalence data exists (Hijiawi et al., 2013). Globally, the prevalence of depression and anxiety ranges from 0.8% to 9.6% and 2.4% to 18.2%, respectively (The WHO World Mental Health Survey Consortium, 2004). Being female (e.g. Altemus, 2006) and of lower social status (e.g. Murphy, Olivier, Monson, Sobol, Federman, & Leighton, 1991) are risk factors for both depression and anxiety.

Even though mental health issues are present in Jordan, very little data are available on help-seeking behaviour by those in distress. Prominent help-seeking behaviours throughout the Middle East are faith as well as strong relations with family and friends (IMC, 2017). Syrian refugees in Jordan are more likely to seek help from external support structures than Jordanians. No gender differences in seeking help when being in distress were found. In academia, females are more likely to seek professional academic assistance than males (e.g. Alexitch, 2002; Roussel, Elliot, & Feltman, 2011; Ryan, Gheen, & Midgley, 1998).

To explore these issues, 35 Syrian refugees in Jordan and 40 socially disadvantaged Jordanians receiving a scholarship for a Masters study programme in Jordan were selected for two separate intakes for two consecutive academic years.

The scholarship programme is managed by two teams. Team 1 is responsible for overall programme management and supports the scholarship holders in issues related to family, overall wellbeing, and everyday life. A psychosocial support programme as a means to deal with everyday struggles in their context of forced displacement is run by team 1. Team 2 is solely responsible for scholarship awarding and provision of academic support measures. The support by team 2 is more formalised and of academic nature only.

Psychosocial support

Within forced displacement, psychosocial support aims to create safe spaces for affected persons and enhances their coping strategies for events that violate one’s self-worth (GIZ, 2017). Psychosocial support measures can be integrated into other programmes, for example, higher education.

Different categories for psychosocial support measures exist (GIZ, 2017)
  1. to provide stability and reduce stress through fulfilling basic needs;
  2. to strengthen and rebuild constructive interpersonal relationships;
  3. to establish a framework within affected people that helps them experience their own effectiveness and perceive themselves in the context of their needs, strengths and weaknesses;
  4. to activate personal and social resources to cope with everyday life and integrating this into their self-image and world view;
  5. to restore dignity, justice, control, and autonomy; and
  6. to support the development of new life goals to experience life as meaningful.

According to the guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), psychosocial support can be classified into the four layers of the IASC intervention pyramid (IASC, 2007). Affected people require different kinds of support in each layer [see

  References Top

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Al-Hawamdeh A., El-Ghali H. A. (2017). Higher education and Syrian refugee students: The case of Jordan (policies, practices, and perspectives). Beirut: UNESCO.  Back to cited text no. 2
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IMC. (2015). Syria crisis: Addressing regional mental health needs and gaps in the context of the Syria crisis. Retrieved from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Syria_Mental_Health%20FINAL.pdf  Back to cited text no. 13
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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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