Khaled, Abdul Salam and Ahmed are three young refugees who shared a similar fate by fleeing their home countries to seek international protection in Egypt, where their lives have changed after they had been awarded UNHCR’s higher education scholarship provided by DAFI.
By Radwa Sharaf | 28 Oct 2019
According to a Gallup World Poll survey more than 750 million people from all over the world wish they could have a chance to leave their home countries and migrate to a new country, but what about refugees who were forced to flee because of war?
Despite coming from different countries, Khaled, Abd El-Salam and Khaled Ahmed shared a similar fate. The three young refugees had dreams of bright futures in their homelands, and had worked very hard towards their goal, only to be deprived of their dreams as a result of war. Left with no choice but to seek international protection outside the boundaries of their countries, the three, soon-to-be friends, turned away their emotions and sought protection in Egypt.
Coping with the bitter reality was not easy and starting over in a new country was even harder. But they were full of optimism and tirelessly strived for excellence until their hard work and perseverance paid off. Khaled, Abd El-Salam and Ahmed had been awarded UNHCR’s higher education scholarship provided by the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI).
“The moment I knew that I can’t afford the tuition fees to pursue my bachelor’s degree in an Egyptian University, all thoughts of agony and despair started sinking in. I even considered getting on a boat to another country to continue my studies somewhere else. I never wanted to risk my life, but I felt helpless,” Khaled said.
Khaled was raised in Darfur camp and moved to Khartoum in 2013 to start his undergraduate studies. But in a gloomy night Khaled was arrested as a result of the unstable conditions in the city and his academic path faltered.
He headed to Cairo directly after he was released, seeking protection and hoping to continue his studies. He hopes to eventually pursue a master’s degree in Human Rights in order to advocate for a world free of oppression.
DAFI is a youth empowerment program that enables refugee students to study at universities and colleges in over 50 countries of asylum. The scholarship covers tuition fees, study materials, food, transport, accommodation and other allowances.
“DAFI Program changed my personality so much that I became more sociable. I am no longer afraid of gatherings and I started to find myself again,” said Abdul Salam who fled Syria and came to Egypt in 2013.
Abd El-Salam had a hard time finding a way to fit in the society and to get used to the education system in Egypt. DAFI was an opportunity for him to meet new people and engage in different activities, which broadened his circle of friends and his ambitions as well.
The scholarship doesn’t only provide refugees with access to higher education, but refugee students also receive psychosocial support, academic preparatory sessions and language classes.
From the very first moments he left his home in Yemen and came to Egypt in January 2016, Ahmed had clear goals in mind; studying medicine and helping people. Forthwith, Ahmed submitted all his papers to the Tansiq Office (Admission and Registration coordination office) in Cairo and applied for DAFI’s program. He was granted the scholarship and started studying Medicine at Menoufia University in 2016.
I was lucky to be selected by DAFI Program, which helped me to continue my studies and saved me a lot of efforts,” Ahmed said. Indeed, according to UNHCR’s 2019 Education report, only three percent of refugees worldwide are able to access higher education, compared to 37 percent of young people of university age globally. Thus, the DAFI programme plays an indispensable role in narrowing this gap.
In Egypt, 348 refugee students received scholarships through the DAFI programme for the 2019/2020 academic year, helping them overcome barriers to accessing tertiary education and satisfying an ever-growing appetite for self-actualization.
Since its inception in 1992, DAFI has grown considerably, enabling more than 15,500 refugee students to study at universities and colleges in 50 countries of asylum. In 2018 alone, UNHCR had supported 6,866 young refugees to study in 768 higher education institutions through DAFI scholarship programmes.