UNHCR launches campaign to close higher education gap for refugees


The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has launched a new campaign to help raise at least $ 23 million in private sector donations to create at least 1,800 new scholarships for refugees.

Globally, only 3 percent of young refugees are enrolled in some form of higher education, according to UNHCR.

The organization hopes to see that figure rise to at least 15% by 2030, with its new Aim higher campaign to help achieve this goal.

Funds raised through the campaign will go to UNHCR’s Refugee Scholarship Program (DAFI), which helps young refugee students pursue university or similar higher education.

Announcing the new fundraising goal exclusively with this publication, UNHCR Education Chief Rebecca Telford said that already, since the launch of the campaign, the initiative has raised at least $ 4 million, with the real estate developer CTP, the BNP Paribas Foundation and the pharmaceutical company Hikma Pharmaceuticals among the largest donors.

“As we seek to better help refugee populations to truly take charge of their own lives and build meaningful futures… education is such a key aspect of this,” Telford said.

“Education is neither a price nor a privilege”

As one of the program’s first scholarship recipients, Pakistan-born and raised Afghan refugee Asma Rabi, aspiring journalist, couldn’t agree more.

“I firmly believe that education is not a prize or a privilege that should only be given to a few people, but a human right,” said Rabi, who uses the scholarship to earn a degree in journalism and mass communication.

Aim higher helping refugees around the world to access higher education and higher education is really important, ”she said.

The 23-year-old, who is currently working on her thesis as she balances writing opportunities outside of her degree, said she has long wanted to become a journalist so that she can tell stories that are underrepresented in the press. world – including refugee stories.

“I consider myself to be one of the lucky human beings because every day when I went to school … I used to see children my age and I held my backpack to ‘school and my water bottle and I went to school and I saw refugee children who spoke my language, who were my age, but who did not keep school bags, ”Rabi said.

Instead, she said the refugee children she saw “held the responsibilities of their families on their small shoulders.”

“It haunted me because I was going to school and I had access to education and they had no access to education and it was painful for me,” she said.

“ As a refugee, it is not easy ”

Rabi said she was also determined to pursue higher education to break down stereotypes that persist in the world.

“Since childhood, I wanted to continue my studies no matter what because I wanted to break this taboo according to which girls are not allowed to go to school. In some countries, unfortunately, it is said that girls do not need higher education, ”she said.

“[They are told] “You don’t need to take a bachelor’s or a doctorate … it’s not good for you,” Rabi said.

“So I wanted to find a scholarship, but as a refugee it’s not easy,” she said.

Indeed, Telford said that while scholarship funding for refugees is a powerful way to help bridge the higher education gap among young refugees, she said the policies in place in countries around the world continued to make it difficult for refugees to access educational opportunities.

Financial struggles are not the only obstacle

“There are many obstacles preventing refugee students from enrolling in higher education,” she said.

On the one hand, she said, around “85% of refugees are in low-income countries”.

Meanwhile, many are not eligible to pay “home” tuition fees at universities and therefore have to pay high fees without always being eligible for student loans.

Telford added that in some cases refugees not being able to leave their accommodation to go to school can also be a barrier, “so even if all other barriers were removed they would still struggle.”


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