UNHCR – the UN Refugee AgencyHow refugees in education are building the future for their communities

How refugees in education are building the future for their communities

20-year-old Faida is a Rwandan refugee. She came to Chad in 2002 with her family and is now studying an economics degree on a scholarship run by UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency at the University of N’Djamena. Despite her busy schedule and her dreams of pursuing a master’s degree when she graduates, Faida spends her free time with the N’Djamena refugee student association, a place for support and exchange among a diverse body of refugee students. Faida serves as a mentor and tutor for others, facilitating exchange of language skills and inspiring other young girls to follow their dreams and reach higher.

“I want to become an independent woman and inspire other girls,” she says.

UNHCR’s higher education scholarship programme plays an integral role in enabling refugees worldwide to access higher education. It is helping refugee scholars like Faida not only access education but build the skills to support their communities as role models and self-reliant professionals.

Since its inception in 1992, the programme has enabled more than 15,500 refugee students to study at universities and colleges in over 50 countries of asylum. The scholarship provides financial support covering a range of costs from tuition fees and study materials to food, transport and accommodation.

Another scholar who has been supported through the programme is Mohammad, who left Syria in 2013 and has since completed a BA in education on a DAFI scholarship in Jordan. “I chose education as my major because I like children and because I strongly believe in the importance of education. Educating the younger generation is the best way for any society to build its future. I often tell myself and others that education is the very best investment that anyone can make for themselves.”

Mohammad is now using his skills to build a better learning experience for young refugees in Zaatari, Jordan’s largest refugee camp. For his master’s degree, Mohammad did research on the teaching of life skills to children in the refugee camps. “This is a subject where they teach children skills such as communication, decision-making, self-management and problem-solving.” Through his research, Mohammad has made recommendations for teachers in the camp and suggested additional training for them to be able to best support children. His education has been invaluable to being able to support younger refugees in the camp.

“The more skills I acquired, thanks to my studies and the scholarship, the more confidence I have gained. University students in the camp are role models for the younger ones. They look up to us. My journey, having received scholarships and having graduated with a master's degree, can inspire some of them, can give them hope.”

Zahra is a refugee scholar studying journalism in Afghanistan. She returned with her family from exile in Iran and has been attending university in Afghanistan with support from the scholarship programme – with the hope that her education can bring change in her homeland.  “The security situation in Afghanistan remains challenging. Just a few weeks ago, my university was attacked by gunmen and my fellow students were killed. It was a really traumatizing experience. I personally decided to stay in school and to continue my education for the sake of my country; I feel that I am not studying just for myself, but for my country and for its development,” she says.

With support from a DAFI scholarship, Zahra has received support to continue her education. “I am the head of my household, as my father passed away several years ago. The DAFI scholarship has allowed me to continue my studies while also enabling me to continue supporting my mother and three younger siblings.”

Zahra dreams of completing her education and contributing to the future of Afghanistan. “My country is facing challenges from many angles; we all need to play a part in working towards its prosperity and to reduce the burdens faced by fellow Afghans. I hope to make a contribution to the country. In this regard I am not alone, I am part of Afghanistan’s new generation; we are the future of Afghanistan.” 

UNHCR is raising funds for a new generation of refugee scholars to be able to complete a higher education, making it possible for them to transform their own lives and that of their communities, and inspiring young refugees to dream of a life after displacement. And as Mohammad, the Syrian refugee scholar in Jordan says, “How can anyone live without having a dream?”

Find out more about UNHCR’s Aiming Higher campaign and make a donation to help more refugee scholars be supported with an education.

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