A student in the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins project in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, June 26, 2013. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
"Forcibly displaced and frequently living on the margins of society, we have seen how education offers refugees the intellectual nourishment to become the leaders of tomorrow. In the midst of conflict and instability, education can be a form of healing to refugees hungry to rebuild their communities," said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J.
Hear from refugees in the Kakuma program as they describe the benefits of this Jesuit initiative:
Making tertiary education accessible to refugees and displaced people is a strategic goal of JRS. UNHCR recently reported that less than one percent of refugees have access to higher education. Kakuma refugee camp is home to more than 119,000 refugees from more than a dozen countries. JRS has been accompanying and serving refugees in the camp since 1994.
Hundreds of forcibly displaced persons in Jordan and Malawi are already enrolled in similar online higher education courses and diploma programs with Regis University in Denver, Colorado, as well as certificate courses offered by other Jesuit universities. Assessments are underway in Chad and will soon be followed in other locations to increase further educational opportunities for refugees.
"Only a tiny percentage of students currently have access to higher education. By harnessing technology, we have brought universities to refugees," said Mary McFarland, JC:HEM International Director.
Launched in 2010, this JRS/JC:HEM initiative uses internet and on-site teachers, mentors and tutors, and offers accredited online higher education courses to refugees here and in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, and in urban areas in Jordan. In the pilot phase of the program, ending in August 2014, more than 1,000 refugees are expected to participate.
Approximately 280,000 children, young people and adults receive primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services each year. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training.
Further, JRS undertakes advocacy to ensure all displaced children be provided with access to quality education. A UNHCR partner and an international non-governmental Catholic organization, JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
"Education is a key in combating the evil of hatred, violence and war. I'm ever more convinced of that," said Fr. Balleis. "Learning is a way to nourish, in a situation of utter despair, the hope in people, the hope in children. It is so important to get (displaced and refugee) children into school, to establish a routine of life. It is important to keep learning, it is a form of trauma healing in the midst of a conflict."