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Afghanistan needs educated refugee youth, urges leader at UNHCR workshop

News Stories, 18 December 2003

© UNHCR/A.Shahzad
UNHCR's Tahiana Andriamasomanana (left) and Afghan representative Rehmatullah Mussa Ghazi helming the workshop in Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD, Dec 18 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency today took a first step towards opening dialogue between Afghanistan and its refugee students on scholarship in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

On Thursday, UNHCR held a one-day workshop in Islamabad for Afghan refugee students receiving a German-funded scholarship under the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) to discuss problems they face studying in different professional institutions in Pakistan.

The event was attended by Rehmatullah Mussa Ghazi, Minister Counsellor of the Afghan Embassy in Pakistan; Tahiana Andriamasomanana, Assistant Representative of Programmes at UNHCR Islamabad; UNHCR delegates from Iran and Afghanistan, and a large number of Afghan refugee students.

"Afghan refugee students are requested to take most available opportunities in Pakistan as today educated youth are most wanted in Afghanistan," said the Afghan Minister Counsellor, noting that education was the worst hit sector during the long years of instability in Afghanistan.

"Afghan refugees living in Pakistan were lucky as they had access to education facilities which the majority in Afghanistan lacked. The new government, after taking charge of affairs, has put more emphasis on education," said Ghazi, adding that Afghanistan needed its educated refugee youth to return and serve their homeland.

UNHCR's Andriamasomanana noted that Thursday's workshop was the first step towards opening up channels of communication between Afghanistan and its DAFI-sponsored scholarship students in Pakistan and Iran. She promised more workshops to come in the near future.

Student leaders Mohammad Maqbool and Zahira Hafizullah thanked UNHCR and the German government for the DAFI scholarship programme. "We acknowledge that the financial assistance extended through UNHCR by the German government has been a great help to Afghan refugee students in Pakistan," they said. "Without this assistance, most of us could not have possibly continued our education. We take this opportunity to request UNHCR and the German government to continue this financial support."

The DAFI programme in Pakistan was started in 1992, awarding 826 scholarships in different disciplines over the years. It currently assists 116 Afghan refugee students there. Another 600 Afghan students in Iran have benefited from the programme since it started there in 1995.

"The scholarship is meant to promote self-reliance of refugees by providing them with a professional qualification geared towards future employment," said Nasir Sahibzada, UNHCR's Education Officer in Islamabad. "It covers the financial expenses of a refugee student over a period ranging from one year to the maximum of five years."

Presenting the results of their workshop discussions, the Afghan refugee students recommended more simplified admission procedures for Pakistan's institutions and better information sharing on educational and developmental issues in Afghanistan.

UNHCR Kabul's Roya Sharifi said that her office was looking into courses and other information on educational institutions in Afghanistan. She said this information had already been shared with the refugee agency's offices in Pakistan for Afghan students to refer to should they decide to continue their studies upon their return.




UNHCR country pages


Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Seeds of Hope

20 Years of DAFI: A UNHCR exhibition highlights the impact of higher education for refugee communities.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

The cycle of life has started again in Afghanistan as returnees put their shoulders to the wheel to rebuild their war-torn country.

Return is only the first step on Afghanistan's long road to recovery. UNHCR is helping returnees settle back home with repatriation packages, shelter kits, mine-awareness training and vaccination against diseases. Slowly but surely, Afghans across the land are reuniting with loved ones, reconstructing homes, going back to school and resuming work. A new phase in their lives has begun.

Watch the process of return, reintegration, rehabilitation and reconstruction unfold in Afghanistan through this gallery.

Afghanistan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Country

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Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
From refugee 'Lost Boy' to state education ministerPlay video

From refugee 'Lost Boy' to state education minister

The subject of the best-selling book What is the What, Valentino Achak Deng's journey has taken him from Sudanese 'Lost Boy' to education minister in his home state in South Sudan. He talks here about the causes of displacement, the risks of politicizing refugee resettlement, and the opportunities that come with staying positive.