The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in conjunction with the German Embassy in Botswana, on Wednesday celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Albert Einstein Deutsche Akademische Fluchtlings Initiative Albert Einstein (DAFI) tertiary scholarship programme (the German Academic Refugee Initiative Scholarship Programme).
Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Annett G├╝nther, stated that the DAFI programme, which was initiated by the German government in 1992, is the only available support for refugees worldwide to continue to tertiary education. She added that, unfortunately, only a small proportion of refugee students completing secondary school, which is difficult enough most of the times, can be offered scholarships to attend university or similar courses under the DAFI programme.
“Education is recognized as a human right in international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said Gunther.
She further said that education can convey knowledge and skills important for survival in a refugee crisis, and can help prepare for a sustainable solution by creating a pool of highly qualified people.
She also stated that in Botswana, the programme commenced in 2002 and has been supporting tertiary education for bright young people to date and that 36 young refugee students and graduates have been supported by the DAFI Programme.
“I know that education is not the only challenge that refugees face, there are others, for instance health care. I am sure that UNHCR, together with the many NGOs, numerous volunteers and the government, will continue its assistance to refugees in Botswana,” said Gunther.
She pointed out that although at first sight not a big number, she hoped that the 36 students with their own personal example have been and will be able to encourage and inspire other refugees from Dukwi to pursue education in every possible and available form.
UNHCR Botswana Country Representative, Lynn Ngugi, stated that the objectives of the programme are to empower refugee students towards gainful employment, and self reliance; to develop qualified human resources, in order to contribute to the development of their country of origin upon return.
Ngugi added that UNHCR has strived to establish a solid foundation for its work in Botswana, by making education a protection tool and a key priority at all levels. Ngugi said, in doing so, UNHCR is creating academic opportunities for outstanding talent in the camp.
“The principle behind it is one that was informed by the work of Nobel Laureate, Albert Einstein, while a refugee himself in the USA,” she said.
She also pointed out that in spite of their challenging circumstances, the scholars have not been deterred to aim higher and achieve their goals. Ngugi added that UNHCR Botswana is proud to note that since the start of the DAFI programme, the student retention and completion holds at a soaring 94 percent success rate.