Central African students pursue their studies in Chad exile

News Stories, 12 May 2014

© UNHCR/M.Farman-Farmaian
Moussa with the sewing machine he was given by a staff member at a transit centre in N'Djamena. He will use it to earn some extra money as he resumes his law studies in Chad.

N'DJAMENA, Chad, May 12 (UNHCR) When the latest round of conflict in Central African Republic erupted last December, 30-year-old Moussa was studying law at Bangui University.

"I wanted to defend people," he recalls six months later in neighbouring Chad, adding that as the conflict worsened, "I realized how helpless I was." Like thousands of others, including many students in higher education, he fled the country to escape the mounting intra-communal and religion-based violence.

Moussa ended up in Chad, which has received almost 100,000 people mostly Chadians fleeing from the Central African Republic, including close to 2,000 Central African refugees in eight transit centres set up in the capital, N'Djamena.

But despite the drastic upheaval in his life, Moussa was determined to find a way to continue his studies. "I really want to continue with my studies and I still plan to defend people, with words of course," chuckles Moussa, whose determination and single-mindedness has been rewarded.

He has been granted one of 67 scholarships offered to students from the Central African Republic by the government-run Polytechnic Institute for Engineering, Commerce and Administration (EPICA) in N'Djamena. UNHCR helped arrange these scholarships through consultations with EPICA. The study courses started recently.

The refugee agency will help with lodging; arrange transport to the EPICA halls of residence and provide basics such as blankets, mosquito nets, and hygiene items.

Moussa says that although he is "very happy about the [three-year] scholarship," he will need extra money for daily expenses. He thinks he has found a solution. "I used to support myself through tailoring in Bangui," he said, adding that a staff member at the Chagoua Transit Centre had lent him a sewing machine. His engaging character and energy is also sure to attract customers.

"I am training other refugees in the centre to help with the cutting, sewing and finishing touches," says Moussa, pointing to a woman ironing a colourful African garment. "Many of my trainees are also scholarship students. My plan is to set up a tailor's shop," he adds. "I like this work because I help my compatriots with their clothing needs and I train people to make a living."

Other refugee students on scholarships are studying subjects such as information management, business administration, sociology, hotel management, electronics and commerce.

UNHCR holds regular meetings to help orient newly arrived refugee students and to ensure that they are fully aware of the scholarship requirements, including following university rules, attending classes, studying hard and achieving good grades. It is also helping other students to become self-sufficient and looking at livelihood opportunities.

"It is important for us to seize this opportunity to not only promote refugee education, but also to explore, more deeply, the capacities, skills and interests of individuals. In this way, we will be able to help refugees regain their stability, independence and, most importantly, their dignity," says Aminata Gueye, UNHCR's representative in Chad.

There are currently more than 100,000 Central African refugees in Chad, including about 13,000 people who have arrived this year. Most of the refugees have arrived in the country via various border points in the south.

By Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian in N'Djamena, Chad

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.