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Refugee students in Tanzania find hope through a scholarship program in Canada


Refugee students in Tanzania find hope through a scholarship program in Canada

3 January 2024
Tanzania. Refugee Scholarship

Five Congolese refugee students in Tanzania have departed the Nyarugusu camp after getting scholarships to study at universities in Canada.

Hard work, commitment, prayers, and determination. These are just some of the attributes of five refugee students from Nyarugusu camp in northern Tanzania who, in 2023, embarked on a journey to Canada to advance their education, thanks to the World University Services Canada (WUSC) Scholarship program.

Congolese refugee Balake Ehambewa (21) is one of them, having applied for a WUSC scholarship in 2021 after being motivated by his teacher.

“Our teacher told us that even though there are no universities or higher learning institutions in the camp, we still have a few opportunities, and the lucky ones will get the chance. I always considered myself among the lucky ones,” he recalls.

Balake still remembers the day when he got his acceptance letter to join a university in Canada. His family was very happy and proud of him, as among his seven siblings, he is the first to study outside the camp.

Upon completion of his studies, Balake wants to be a gynecologist and build his own specialist hospital for women and children, a dream he has had after his mother nearly lost her life during childbirth ten years ago.

“I saw her struggling to save her life and the babies three times, and we ended up losing the babies. All those times, I wished I could be a doctor to save my mother and my siblings' lives, and to educate my community on the importance of attending clinics for pregnant women and teach them the importance of attending health centers whenever they feel unwell,” confides Balake.  

“This is a relief to my parents and my siblings. They believed in me, and they believe I will change the situation at home and my community through my studies and achievements.”

Balake, refugee student

Among the group with Balake pursuing further studies in Canada, there are four women – Kiza Jonas (21), Kakozi Eve (23), Jeannette Amisa (22) and Pierre Yvette Kakule (24), excited to start a new journey in their lives.

“Being in the refugee camp, our lives were limited. There are some services that people of our age are supposed to access, but due to the conditions at the camp, services are either lacking or inadequate. But that does not mean it is the end of life, especially for girls. Most of us have applied for scholarships more than three times. Giving up should not be an option,” asserts Kiza.

Kakozi remembers her friends she left at the camp; girls who are now mothers, whose childhood dreams now seem impossible to reach. Her wish is for all students, girls and boys, to access education and pursue their dreams.

“It hurts to see girls whom we were discussing our plans together are now mothers, I feel like it is not right, but there is no option,” she laments.

With support from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the first cohort of the WUSC students from Nyarugusu refugee camp left for Canada in 2018. Smaller cohorts of five to 10 students have departed every year since.

“To ensure transparency and accountability, UNHCR provides support with data verification and validation at all levels of the application process and participates in the selection interviews. UNHCR also provides logistics support where necessary and advocates for all departure formalities,” explains Gustave Bihumugani, UNHCR’s Associate Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Officer in Tanzania.

In 2023, a total of 11 students received scholarships to proceed with further studies in Canad. The selection process is ongoing for the 40 new DAFI scholars for Tanzania operation to proceed with their studies in Tanzania. Thanks to the generous support of our steadfast donors and the international community, UNHCR is currently supporting 141 students to join high institutions in Tanzania (121) and abroad (20).

As of 15 December 2023, UNHCR had received only 37 per cent of the resources needed in Tanzania for this year. UNHCR appeals for sustained donor funding to support Tanzania's refugee response, especially in education so refugee students can be empowered to overcome the challenges they face in displacement, enhance their prospects for a brighter future, and contribute positively to their community and beyond.