Paving the way for refugee education: SNHU granted online degrees to students living in refugee camps

UNHCR/Photo by Shawn Baldwin

UNHCR/Photo by Shawn Baldwin

To date, the refugee crisis has dramatically accelerated with 65.3 million people displaced worldwide. Many of them are children and young people who, due to their situation, have been left without education.

According to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), some 1.75 million refugee children are not in primary school and 1.95 million refugee adolescents are not in secondary school.

Source: UNHCR

Source: UNHCR

Refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than the global average, the report found. At the higher education level, just one per cent of refugees attend university, compared to a global average of 34 percent. “This represents a crisis for millions of refugee children,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Despite demands from experts, advocates, and refugees themselves, there has been little success in providing education beyond the secondary level to displaced populations. 

“As the international community considers how best to deal with the refugee crisis, it is essential that we think beyond basic survival,” said Grandi. “Education enables refugees to positively shape the future of both their countries of asylum and their home countries when they one day return.”

Source: UNHCR

Source: UNHCR

But last month, sixteen students in Rwanda were the first students in the world to complete U.S.-accredited associate degrees while living in a refugee camp. The graduates are part of a pilot program from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) in partnership with Kepler, a nonprofit university program based in Africa.

“At SNHU, we believe that access to high-quality higher education is a fundamental human right,” said Chrystina Russell, Vice President for Global Engagement at SNHU, and Nina Weaver, Director of Refugee Education Programs at SNHU. “But today, as we celebrate our newest graduates on World Refugee Day, we are reminded that higher education continues to be out of reach for millions of refugees around the globe.”  

Is never too late to invest in refugee education. "We hope that our success will open the chance to other people who live the same life like we do," said Sadiki Bamperineza, a graduate from the SHNU program. Education can empower refugees and prepare them to build a better life for themselves and their families.