Over the past two decades, 2,135 refugees in Ethiopia been able to attend university using the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) scholarships supported by the German Government.
They have earned degrees in areas such as Medical Sciences, Business Administration, and Agriculture, according to the press statement from German Embassy in Addis Ababa. To mark the 30th anniversary of DAFI program worldwide, a high-level event was organized by the German Embassy in Addis Ababa on 23 March 2022.
The event is organized in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Ethiopian Government’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and the Association of Ethiopians Educated in Germany. DAFI Alumni, Ethiopian Government representatives, partners and donors gathered to share experiences on the DAFI program, and to present ideas for its implementation in the future.
The DAFI scholarship program offers refugee students the possibility to pursue an undergraduate degree in their countries of asylum. Through the dedicated support of the German Government, refugee hosting countries and additional private donors, the program has supported over 21,500 young refugees in 55 countries worldwide since 1992.
“Germany is convinced that education is key to help refugees lead a better life, to achieve their goals and to ultimately benefit the societies they live in. A scholarship can change lives. Not only for the refugee,” said Stephan Auer, Germany’s Ambassador to Ethiopia.
“Higher education empowers young refugee women and men to acquire much needed skills, contribute to peaceful coexistence and social cohesion. It creates self-reliance and builds a pool of future leaders.” said Dr. Mamadou Dian Balde, UNHCR’s Representative to Ethiopia.
“Scholarships like these allow refugees to contribute to their families and host countries, and to bring their skills and capacities home once they are able to return, or to third countries if they qualify for resettlement,” he added.
Ethiopia is one of the most important DAFI-partners at global level, with the largest country program. The country has created a positive policy environment for refugee education, principally through the 2019 Refugee Proclamation, which provides refugees with access to educational opportunities at par with Ethiopian citizens in primary, secondary and higher education.
The sixth Education Sector Development Plan 2020 – 2025 includes refugee education for the first time, paving the way for inclusion of refugee education in national systems.
In addition, the Ethiopian Government generously complements the DAFI program with similar scholarships for refugees who qualify for higher education benefitting over 4,000 refugees in public universities in Ethiopia, according to the statement from the Embassy.
“Refugees are more protected when they are able to make informed decisions, in which education serves as a key instrument to make that happen. The fundamental rationale behind Ethiopia’s pledges and commitments to include refugees in the national education system relies on these premises. Particularly, as resettlement opportunities are dwindling and possibilities for repatriation are becoming limited, it is through education that we can achieve successful integration by making refugees self-reliant to contribute to the society at large,” said Tesfahun Gobezay, Director General, Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS).
On behalf of the DAFI Alumni students, Ruta Teklemariam Haile thanked the Governments of Ethiopia and Germany, UNHCR and program donors for creating opportunities for refugee students to excel in professional education.
“Education is extremely important. It is the building block of human consciousness and a vital factor to change a person, and society at large. Without education, it is like living in darkness for a lifetime, and all of us fellow DAFI Alumni students were lucky to get the chance to see a wonderful light.” “I hope many more refugees in Ethiopia are given opportunities for higher education to learn new skills and leave a footprint for a better world,” Haile added.