World Refugee Day 2021: The power of education and a young refugee’s dream of giving back
15 July 2021
At the age of three, Amule Nixon Raphael was forced to flee his home in Yei, becoming a refugee for the first, but not last time.
At the age of three, Amule Nixon Raphael was forced to flee his home in Yei, becoming a refugee for the first, but not last time. To date, he has spent 75 percent of his life in exile, in Uganda as a child and young adult and in the last seven years in Ethiopia. Despite the suffering he has endured from an early age, the 32-year-old South Sudanese refugee says the power of inclusion in education has brought him closer to his dreams.
“My learning experience at the public primary school in Uganda is the most memorable of my young school days as it gave me the chance to learn side by side with local children. This was what laid a solid foundation for my education, and this highlights the importance of allowing refugees to go to the same school as their host communities,” Nixon said, as he shared his enthralling story at an event in Addis Ababa, commemorating World Refugee which is marked every year on 20 June.
Despite the challenges of life as a refugee, I have worked tirelessly over the years to pursue my academic ambitions and get to where I am today,” he continued.
The event in Addis Ababa was co-organized by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, ARRA, Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, as well as JRS and WISE – and it was attended by refugees, partners, donors and other stakeholders engaged in the refugee response in Ethiopia.
World Refugee Day was also commemorated in all 24 refugee camps across Ethiopia, with a focus on the need for including refugees in national education systems for the benefit of both communities. From panel discussions to art competitions – and quiz shows to sports and cultural performances – all activities highlighted the need to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all, in line with Goal 4 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
With support from UNHCR and other partners, the Government of Ethiopia has been working to improve access to education for refugees and increase refugees’ enrolment in the national education system, as laid out in the country’s 2019 Refugee Proclamation and the Government’s international commitments.
UNHCR Representative Ann Encontre took the opportunity to commend the Government for its inclusive policies and encouraging outcomes. She, however, expressed concern that too many refugee children are still out of school and COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation. “We all need to come together to do more to ensure that even more refugee children get the chance to realize their potential,” she appealed.
Of the more than 800,000 refugees in Ethiopia, 52 percent are school-aged children and youth, of whom only 55 percent are currently in school. For young refugee children, who have fled their homes and lives as they know it, a school can be the first place they start to regain a sense of normalcy and safety. And for young refugees living in harsh conditions, education can provide them with the skills and the hope they need, to build a better future for themselves and their communities, including those hosting them.
Like many other refugees, Nixon, who last year graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy from the University in Addis Ababa, sees education as a means for giving back to the communities that helped him while in exile as well as to his home country, when he is able to return safely.
“Education not only enriches a refugee’s insight or enables the refugee to see every life situation in a positive dimension, but it also gives the refugee tools, skills and knowledge to work and build a future … After losing everything, education is the only golden goblet that the enemy cannot take away from us,” Nixon quiped.
The Ethiopian government also offers scholarships to refugee students to study in Government colleges and universities, preparing them to become self-reliant and to contribute to their communities in line with the Global Compact on Refugees. During the current academic year, approximately 800 young refugees from different refugee camps across the country have successfully passed the national university entrance tests, and are awaiting placement in the different public universities.