Refugee educational scholarship fund celebrates 25 years of assistance in Kenya
“I am grateful that through the DAFI scholarship programme, I’m a graduate.”
Celebrations have taken place in Nairobi, Kenya to mark 25 years since refugees in Kenya started getting funding from the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative, known as DAFI.
More than 200 refugees, past refugee students, staff of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Kenya, government officials, and the partner organization, the Windle Trust, attended the celebrations, which were held at the Catholic University of East Africa in the capital.
Over 530 refugee students have benefited from the scholarship since it started in 1992. Many have obtained undergraduate degrees from some of Kenya’s best educational institutions such as University of Nairobi, and United States International University.
24 year old John Jok Chuol took part in the celebrations. He’s one of 287 current refugee students benefiting from the DAFI scholarship programme. He arrived in Kenya when he was just 10 years old, after losing in father during war in South Sudan, and then becoming separated from his mother.
“DAFI has transformed my life and the scholarships are transforming the lives of many refugees.”
John and his brother were able to find safety in Dadaab refugee camp in 2003 Kenya. They were eventually able to move to Nairobi, where John was lucky enough to attend a public primary school and a private secondary education.
John says it was his talent for basketball that enabled him to get a scholarship for secondary, then excellent school grades then helped him get a DAFI scholarship and so admission to study for a Bachelor of Science in Medicine and Surgery at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, where he’s currently in his second year of study.
“DAFI has helped me to achieve my dream of studying medicine. When I graduate, I would like to go back to South Sudan and serve my community and country. I want to be a neurosurgeon and work for a humanitarian agency where I can serve people equally,” John says.
Past DAFI scholarships students also took part in the celebrations, like Hawo Jehow Siyad. She was just 6 years old when she arrived in Kenya as a refugee from Somalia with her grandmother and settled in Dadaab camp in the year 2000.
Hawo completed primary and secondary education in Hagadera, one of the five camps that make up Dadaab. In 2012 Hawo came top of the class in all schools throughout Garissa County, where Dadaab is situated. In 2013 she managed to get into the DAFI scholarship programme and started her degree in the same year at the University of Nairobi in Economics and Statistics.
Hawo now works in neighboring Somalia. After graduating, she voluntarily repatriated back to her homeland to look for an opportunity to serve her country and rebuild her motherland, she says. Hawo first started working at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, and then got a job on a World Bank funded project that supports the Government, where she now works as a Database Officer.
DAFI Scholars and alumni celebrate together with UNHCR and Windle Trust Kenya Staff members. UNHCR/M.Ndubi
UNHCR Deputy Representative Wella Kouyou at the DAFI at 25 celebrations in Nairobi
Bahati Ernestine Hategekimana, originally from Rwanda is a third year student at Moi University in Kenya, studying Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She is a beneficiary of DAFI scholarship and a member of a club 'Beyond Sciences Initiative' that mentors and supports camp based secondary school students. UNHCR/Caroline Opile
Bahati(left) with other refugees from different countries keenly follow the proceedings at the 2017 annual conference for DAFI students themed - transforming leaders, transforming communities
DAFI Scholars entertaining the gathering during the event.
Scholars listening keenly during the event.
Somali scholars entertaining the guests with a Somali dance.
DAFI scholarship students at the mn ,mnbmnbntwo day DAFI Kenya Students Association conference that was held in Karen Nairobi on 10 and 11 October.
Anne Kwii (left), an alumni and beneficiary of DAFI scholarship chats with fellow country men from South Sudan, Peter Diing (center) and Johnn Chuol (right) during the tea break at the DAFI students conference held on 10 and 11 October in Nairobi.
“I am grateful that through the DAFI scholarship programme, I’m a graduate. DAFI has transformed my life and the scholarships are transforming the lives of many refugees. We’re getting the opportunity to give back to society.”
UNHCR partners with Windle Trust Kenya and the support of the Government of Kenya, through the Refugee Affairs Secretariat, to roll out DAFI scholarships. Dr. Marangu Njogu is the Executive Director of the Trust.
“Whoever is contributing towards your education is contributing towards your community. The education received through the DAFI scholarship builds capacity and equips students with relevant skills for rebuilding their lives and countries of origin.”
UNHCR’s Deputy Representative for UNHCR Kenya, Wella Kouyou also praised DAFI’s commitment to helping to educate refugees during the event.
“For millions of young people, these are the years they should be spending in school, learning not just how to read, write and count but also how to inquire, assess, debate and calculate. The DAFI scholarship programme is enabling that.”
“Whoever is contributing towards your education is contributing towards your community.”
The work of DAFI is having a tremendously positive impact on the lives of those enrolled.
Through the scholarship program, UNHCR and Windle Trust Kenya have forged partnerships with four universities in Kenya, Kenyatta, Moi, Masinde Muliro, and Jomo Kenyatta where refugees have access to educational opportunities.
Refugee students are given a discount of 20 percent on tuition fees at these institutions.
However, according to a recent report published by UNHCR in September, ‘Left Behind, Refugee Education in crisis’, the initiative in Kenya is a drop in the ocean of what’s needed for refugees.
Over 195,000 of nearly 490,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya who should have access to education, don’t. And globally the figure is much bigger. Just over 3.9 million of the world’s 6.5 million refugees, don’t have access to education globally. The report calls for countries like Kenya and other hosting countries to work hard to provide better educational opportunities for refugees at all levels.