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Providing education to refugees

2021-08-31  Paheja Siririka

Providing education to refugees

Paheja Siririka

With many people around the world fleeing their countries for one reason or the other, some host countries have been offering services to refugees, and Namibia is no exception as far as allowing refugees to study is concerned.

Milka Tjiveta, a Control Officer from the Refugee Management Programme within the home affairs ministry, said many people seek refuge for legal or physical protection and come as asylum-seekers.

“The government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) built a school which starts from grade zero to secondary level, where refugees and asylum-seekers have access to education for free. Those who perform well can apply to tertiary institutions and further their studies,” she shared.

A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country to escape war, persecution or natural disasters, while an asylum-seeker is defined as someone whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed.

“Most of the refugees in Namibia reside at the Osire Refugee Camp, with most of the influx coming via Zambia, which requires them to fill in forms at Katima Mulilo,” Tjiveta said. The Osire settlement is located in the Otjiwarongo district. Those living in the settlement need to obtain an exit permit to leave, for example, to go to hospital in Otjiwarongo, or seek services elsewhere across the country.

Namibia has a population of 6 334 refugees and asylum-seekers, and most of them come from countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Burundi, Chad, Mali and others.

“Namibia has signed a treaty with the UN to allow any person with reasonable grounds to avail themselves to the authority so seek asylum,” added Tjiveta.

The last chairperson of the Association for Refugee Rights at the Osire camp, Samba Dominique, said the Osire Secondary School has about 500 pupils, while the primary school accommodates about 900 learners.

“Once these learners finish their secondary school, those who are qualified for university are sponsored by DAFI (a UNHCR tertiary scholarship programme). Those who don’t qualify for tertiary education remain in the settlement, and their academic history stops there,” he told New Era.

With the association’s dissolution in 2012, Dominique urged decision-makers to bring trade schools closer to them as it will help these learners and students a lot.

“There will be those who will contribute to the economy of our African countries and in particular of Namibia, which is hosting them,” he observed.

The Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) is housing three refugee students from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi through the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) scholarship programme.

The institution said the programme is implemented via the Society for Family Health (SFH) organisation and the UNHCR. The SFH is a registered trust operating in Namibia since 1997 as a non-governmental organisation.

The initiative allows refugee students to pursue an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum. The DAFI scholarships are provided largely in developing countries with a significant refugee population such as in Africa and Asia. The programme aims to support deserving refugee students to achieve self-reliance by providing them with a qualification to enhance their employability. 

Students who successfully qualify for the scholarships receive tuition fees, study material, food, transportation, accommodation and other allowances. 

“The students are currently studying Bachelor of Computer Science in Cyber Security, Bachelor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Technology in Power Engineering programmes,” an education officer at SFH, Sondaha Sakeus, said.

DAFI students also receive additional support through close monitoring, academic preparatory and language classes based on their needs, as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.  “The DAFI scholarships are only awarded for a maximum of four years of studying at bachelor’s or equivalent degree levels,” Sakeus explained. 

Furthermore, she encouraged current scholarship holders to network to identify potential future scholarship providers if they wish to further their studies.To date, the programme has supported nine students in total, of which the other six are currently studying at the University of Namibia (Unam).

2021-08-31  Paheja Siririka

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