Rose Mbachilina and Prosper Etongwe are two young Cameroonians who fled their country to escape the conflict between separatist fighters and the military in the Southwest and Northwest regions. They both sought refuge at the Adagom refugee settlement in Cross River State, Nigeria, where they found hope through education.
Rose always had a passion for healthcare and dreamed of becoming a healthcare provider. She could not, however, afford to attend college until she saw a notice about DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) tertiary scholarships posted on the Adagom settlement notice board. She applied and was one of 32 Cameroonian refugee students selected for the 2019 and 2020 DAFI programmes in Cross River and Benue States.
Led by the Government of Germany, along with the support of the Government of Denmark, as well as UNHCR and private donors, the programme offers qualified refugee and returnee students the possibility to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum or home country. It covers tuition fees, accommodation, food, transportation, and other costs.
Rose studied Community Health at the College of Health Sciences and Technology in Ogoja, Cross River State, and now volunteers at the Adagom Primary Health Centre to help improve healthcare services for refugees and locals. “The Scholarship programme has changed my life. Now I act and think like a health personnel, especially in my community. I can identify health problems and use my skills to help treat the sick. That alone gives me joy,” she said
Rose’s experience also motivated her to obtain a Higher National Diploma in community health, register for professional certification with the National Association of Community Health Practitioners of Nigeria, and open a small medicine store in the refugee settlement.
On the other hand, Prosper had to give up his dream of becoming a mathematician when the strike action by teachers in 2016 disrupted his Ordinary Level final examination in Cameroon. With no other prospects, he decided to stay home and help his mother on her farm. The conflict in Cameroon worsened, and he and his family fled to Nigeria in 2018, seeking refuge at Adagom.
Prosper enrolled in public secondary school with the support of UNHCR, became the senior school prefect, and graduated with flying colours in his final Ordinary Level examinations. Like Rose, he saw a notice about DAFI scholarships posted on the Adagom settlement notice board and applied. He was selected for the 2022/2023 academic session and is currently studying Mathematics and Computer Science at the National Open University in Ikom, Cross River State.
“Ever since I was a child, mathematics has been my best subject. It is in my blood, and none of my classmates could compete with me. I decided to study Mathematics and Computer Science because the world is developing, and technology is trending in society today,” he said.
To help build and improve ICT skills for refugee and host community youths, UNHCR established a connectivity centre in the Adagom community benefitting many refugees and locals. Prosper also benefitted from this centre, saying, “I had my first knowledge of computers here in the Adagom settlement through the connectivity centre, and that is where my passion for computer science started.”
Rose and Prosper’s stories highlight the transformative power of education, even in the midst of conflict and displacement. Through DAFI and other educational opportunities, UNHCR and partners are empowering thousands of refugee youth to develop skills and earn qualifications to allow them to become change-makers who can take the lead in identifying solutions to the challenges that affect them and their communities.