Education is a vital tool to help create sustainable and peaceful futures. Every year, thousands of talented, dedicated and passionate people are denied the opportunity to access higher education, to undertake training, develop their skills, or earn qualifications.
Many refugee students have had to overcome substantial barriers in their pursuit for education. While significant progress has been made in expanding higher education opportunities for refugees, much remains to be done. According to UNHCR, only 5% of refugees have access to higher education compared to only 1% in 2019 (Complementary Education pathways in UNHCR Education Strategy). This is far below the global average higher education enrollment among non-refugees, which stands at 39 per cent.
Refugees face a considerable amount of challenges which limits their access to higher education.
Because of this, Windle International Uganda in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is supporting them access tertiary education under the DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) Programme. The purpose of the DAFI Programme is to contribute to the self-reliance of refugees by providing them with a professional qualification for future employment. The programme aims at promoting self-reliance through increased access to opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship, empowering students to contribute knowledge, skills and leadership to the host and home countries upon return.
Ntawusigimana Uwase Paul, a recent graduate of Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration from Ndejje University is among the many beneficiaries of the programme. Paul is a Rwandese refugee from Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in Kyegegwa District.
When Paul completed A-level in 2018, it was quite a difficult moment for him. He had no funds to support him advance to the next level of education.
“It was really a tough moment for me. I had no hope of joining University until January 2019 when I saw an advert at the Windle International Uganda office notice board in my settlement. I applied and I was given the opportunity to pursue my dream with the help of the DAFI scholarship that offers tuition, accommodation, guidance, mentorship and other university requirements,” Paul recalls. Adding, “I felt like my life was given a purpose again, a feeling I cannot describe.”
While at university, Paul notes that he got a chance to interact and connect with people from diverse communities which changed his mindset, equipped him with leadership skills, improved his self-esteem and provided him with better ways of coping up challenges.
For students and graduates, the DAFI programme serves as a foundation for social and professional development, allowing them to build careers in competitive fields of employment.
Paul is currently working as a Distribution Assistant at Adventist Development and Relief Agency Uganda, Kyaka II Field Office.
“I am currently using the knowledge and skills I gained to support my community. I have already started by participating in the Refugee Empowerment for Sustainable Development in Africa which has activities that empower women and girls, talent development, sports and livelihood which I believe will create a difference and a solution to social problems in my community,” Paul revealed.
“I also intend to pursue a Masters’ in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building in order to broaden my understanding so that I can be able to contribute to peace and stability in war zones.”
Besides the individual benefits, highly educated refugees further reduce economic and psychological dependence of the whole communities in asylum, improving their self-reliance and preparing them for durable solutions. “Currently I am able to support my family and this would not have been possible without the DAFI scholarship,” Paul noted.
For Paul, all he can do is thank WIU and partners for the opportunity that forever changed his life. “I would like to extend a special thanks to DAFI, UNHCR, OPM and WIU for their endless support towards refugee education. I am forever thankful to the WIU scholarship department staff for their guidance, mentorship and psycho social support services,” he said.