Going into its third decade of operation, DAFI continues to be UNHCR’s cornerstone program for refugees to participate in and benefit from higher education, supporting over 18,500 young people to undertake tertiary studies.

Participation of refugees in higher education strengthens national education systems to the benefit of both host and refugee communities. For refugees, it is a path to rebuilding lives and fosters motivation and a hope for a better future.

The DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship program enables qualified refugee and returnee students an opportunity to earn an undergraduate degree in their country of asylum or home country. Since 1992, the program has supported over 18,500 young refugees to undertake tertiary studies.

Building on its consistently strong performance and reputation for quality, the DAFI program aims to have 15 per cent of young refugees in higher education by the year 2030.

In 2020, 7,343 young refugee women and men from 47 countries of origin were enrolled in DAFI scholarships in 53 countries around the world.

In 2018 UNHCR reported only 1 per cent of refugee youth participating in higher education. In 2020, that figure rose from 3 per cent in 2019 to 5 per cent.

Sierra Leonean refugee, Felix Sessay receives his BSc degree in nursing at a graduation ceremony in Accra, Ghana. Felix represented refugee students at The Other 1 Percent conference in Berlin, advocating for increased access to education for refugees. 
© UNHCR/Nicholas S.Adatsi

Salam Al-Hariri, 26, is a Syrian refugee and trainee pharmacist providing vital COVID-19 support to her community. After graduating as a DAFI scholar from the University of Jordan in 2018, she is training at a local pharmacy and has become an important bridge between the Syrian community and the healthcare system.

© UNHCRJordan/Hawari

Salam Al-Hariri, 26, is a refugee, mother and trainee pharmacist in Amman. Salam fled Syria with her mother and two younger siblings in 2012. She had started studying chemistry at Damascus University but had to abandon her studies after two weeks because of escalating fighting. In Jordan, she was accepted into the DAFI program.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, she posted videos on Instagram answering healthcare questions from the community and her pharmacy delivered medicine to the most vulnerable.

Over 800 refugee students have become DAFI scholars in Jordan since the program began in 2013. For DAFI graduates, however, finding work remains a challenge due to the limitations on sectors in which refugees can work in Jordan (manufacturing, agriculture and construction). UNHCR continues to advocate for the Government of Jordan to provide exceptions to the work permit regulations.

“The DAFI scholarship was a spark for change in my life. It has provided me with endless opportunities and given me the motivation to succeed," Salam said.

Felix Sessay is a refugee from Sierra Leone living in Ghana. He studied at Saint Karols School of Nursing in Accra on the DAFI scholarship program and recently graduated, receiving his BSc degree in nursing.

Felix has become an outspoken advocate for refugee rights. As a student nurse, he has conducted health screenings at Krisan refugee camp in Ghana and led workshops on gender-based violence. He also provides refugee students with support for exam preparation and scholarship applications. In June 2019, Felix represented refugee students at The Other 1 Percent conference in Berlin, advocating for increased access to education for refugees.

“I want to affect change in society. My dream is to become someone influential who transforms peoples’ lives,” Felix said.

The strategic priorities of the DAFI program are to:

  • Promote refugee self-reliance through increased access to opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship;
  • Empower students to contribute knowledge, skills and leadership and to facilitate peaceful coexistence with host communities during displacement and upon return;
  • Strengthen the protective impact of education by encouraging lifelong learning;
  • Provide role models for refugee children and youth to demonstrate the impact of education on individuals, communities and societies.

With your support we can help more refugee women and men like Salam and Felix obtain a higher education qualification. 

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