'The DAFI scholarship changed my life'

Thanks to the DAFI scholarship programme, Burundian refugee fulfils his dream of graduating from university and now works as a humanitarian in Uganda.

Burundian refugee Wilson Ndayisenga Faradja works in his office in Nakivale settlement, Uganda.
© Photo courtesy of Alight/F. Bitungurano

After armed militias burned down their house in Muyinga in northern Burundi in 2008, Wilson Ndayisenga Faradja had no choice but to flee with his grandfather. He never imagined that he would finish his education as a result.

But as a refugee in Uganda’s Nakivale settlement, he was able to complete his secondary education and actualize his dream of graduating from university thanks to support from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI). The 28-year-old graduated from Bugema University in 2016 as one of the top students, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration.

“The DAFI scholarship changed my life. It helped me acquire new skills,” says Wilson, who joined the refugee response in Uganda as a humanitarian worker soon after his graduation.

He was sent to Bidibidi settlement in northern Uganda to help respond to the mass influx of refugees from South Sudan. Back in southwestern Uganda, he was first part of a team providing psychosocial support to refugees in Nakivale. Then, he began working as a reception centre assistant at Kabazana to provide assistance to new refugee arrivals.

“The DAFI scholarship changed my life. It helped me acquire new skills.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out last year, the Kabazana reception centre was closed and Wilson was reassigned to the Kabahinda Quarantine Centre in Isingiro district where he has since been responsible for ensuring delivery of food and other supplies to refugees and Ugandans in isolation.

“I always want to bring positive change in the lives of my fellow refugees. Many of them had to leave their homes after losing family members and property,” he explains. “I know how it feels as I went through the same situation, that’s why I want to help them.”

Over 3,500 refugees are in need of higher education in Uganda, which hosts over 1.4 million refugees mostly from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi. Since 2008, nearly 480 refugee students have been able to access tertiary education in Uganda through the DAFI scholarship programme ­– a global initiative that was launched in 1992 and funded by the German Government, UNHCR and private donors to enable refugees attend third-level education institutions.

Wilson is proud to serve his community in Nakivale and is optimistic about his life’s journey.

“Education has opened up many opportunities for me and I am thankful to all those who believed in me,” he adds.