DAFI scholarship landmark for returning Burundian refugees

News Stories, 21 October 2008

© UNHCR/A.Kirchhof
Five of the students proudly show their enrolment documents for Bujumbura’s Université Lumière.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, October 21 (UNHCR) A group of 40 young Burundians became the first returning refugees to be granted university scholarships by UNHCR when they matriculated this week as students at Bujumbura's Université Lumière.

The UN refugee agency's German-funded DAFI scholarship programme, formally known as the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, had previously only been available to refugees living in countries of asylum. This first group is returning home to take up university places.

The main aim of the DAFI programme, which is celebrating its 16th anniversary, is to contribute to human resources development as part of a broader UNHCR strategy of promoting self-reliance and durable solutions for refugees.

Apollinaire, one of the new Université Lumière students, said he had been selected on the basis of his performance while studying in a Tanzanian refugee camp. "I was so happy when I got the news that I had received a grant [to study business administration]," he said, adding that it had strengthened his determination to return home.

He said his education had been severely disrupted when he fled to Tanzania in 1993 to escape the latest outbreak of fighting in the small Great Lakes nation. "I was just as good as all the others in class, but I had to flee Burundi when I was still a secondary student," Apollinaire recalled. "At some point, I lost all hope of continuing my education. Some of my schoolmates had by then become doctors and civil servants."

Apollinaire has been catching up. And his volunteer work in the camp, including teaching other children and organizing family reunions for the International Committee for the Red Cross, has added an edge to his education.

Fellow student, Carine, will be studying law with the DAFI scholarship. "I want to become a lawyer, helping those who would otherwise not be represented," she said, noting that even though relative peace had returned to her small, landlocked nation, property disputes stemming from war and displacement were common.

Like Apollinaire, Carine said she had also learned about life during her time as a refugee. "In the camp, we received a food ration every two weeks and you had to use it sparingly otherwise you would soon have nothing left. I have learned to save and I will know how to use my grant."

The DAFI programme is currently supporting 1,800 refugee students in 33 countries. It is the only large-scale scholarship programme for refugees. This year, Germany has increased funding for the programme from US$2 million to US$5 million.

This has allowed UNHCR to introduce new initiatives, including assisting returning refugees and funding refugees to study for Masters degrees. Previously, the DAFI programme only helped those working for diplomas or Bachelor degrees.

Refugees benefiting from DAFI funding are starting the new academic year at colleges around the world this month. Their outlook is very rosy. Research has shown that more than 95 percent of DAFI-funded graduates find meaningful employment, particularly upon return home, and often in the field of reconstruction, humanitarian relief and development.

By Andreas Kirchhof in Bujumbura, Burundi





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

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

As a massive food distribution gets underway in six UNHCR-run camps for tens of thousands of internally displaced Congolese in North Kivu, the UN refugee agency continues to hand out desperately needed shelter and household items.

A four-truck UNHCR convoy carrying 33 tonnes of various aid items, including plastic sheeting, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans crossed Wednesday from Rwanda into Goma, the capital of the conflict-hit province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The aid, from regional emergency stockpiles in Tanzania, was scheduled for immediate distribution. The supplies arrived in Goma as the World Food Programme (WFP), with assistance from UNHCR, began distributing food to some 135,000 displaced people in the six camps run by the refugee agency near Goma.

More than 250,000 people have been displaced since the fighting resumed in August in North Kivu. Estimates are that there are now more than 1.3 million displaced people in this province alone.

Posted on 6 November 2008

UNHCR/Partners Bring Aid to North Kivu

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

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.
Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek SafetyPlay video

Tanzania: Fleeing Burundi, Refugees Seek Safety

He used to fix broken bicycles in Burundi, but as political troubles and killings mounted Nestor Kamza decided to flee. In search of safety he and his family walked non-stop for 24-hours until they reached Tanzania. His family is among more than 100,000 people who have fled from political violence in Burundi and arrived in the Nyarugusu camp which has almost tripled in size. To alleviate overcrowding in the camp, UNHCR and its partners have planned to open three new camps and have started moving tens of thousands of Burundian refugees to a new, less congested, home