On 27 February 2011, the newly restored Al Madraj building at Damascus University, which is the main administration building together with its historical amphitheatre, was opened by the Prime Minister of Syria, Dr Naji Otri. The ceremony was also attended by the Ministers of Higher Education, Information, Health and Culture.
Newly restored Al Madraj building at Damascus University
The Prime Minister paid tribute to Wafic Said who had donated the funding required for the renovation work. Wafic Saїd is the son of Dr Rida Saїd, the founder of Damascus University who had opened the Al Madraj building in 1928. The building was the nucleus of the University of Syria which subsequently became the University of Damascus and the leading academic institution in Syria and the Arab world.
In his address Wafic Saїd spoke of encouraging excellence and he stressed the importance of quality higher education for the development of Syria. He recalled the words of his father:
"Universities are the means by which we can measure and evaluate a country’s progress and its rise on the ladder of civilization. Countries where universities have been built are countries that have advanced rapidly in the field of education and earned young people their place in our civilization. As universities become developed, so the countries, which create them become developed. Wherever you find prestigious universities which are strongly in demand, you feel that the spirit of life runs in the country as well as the blood of education in its veins”.
Wafic Saїd went on to say: “I fully recognise that excellent facilities are not enough to produce a top class university; it is above all the quality of the faculty and the teaching that count. Therefore, with the support and guidance of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Higher Education and the assistance of the President of the University, Dr Mualla we are currently working on the improvement of the quality of education at Damascus University, supporting the important work which Dr Mualla has already begun here.
We are establishing a Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, whose role as an academic institution will be both to support the process of curriculum reform and to develop capacity not only within the University of Damascus but also with all other Syrian universities. This is a very important project which is close to my heart and which will, I hope, make a significant difference to educational standards in our country.“