Returning Burundians win university scholarships from UN refugee agency

21 October 2008

A group of 40 Burundian students started university classes this week in the capital, Bujumbura, after becoming the first returnees to be granted scholarships by the United Nations refugee agency.

The new students at Université Lumière in Bujumbura were selected to receive scholarships by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which helps to administer the German-funded DAFI scholarship programme.

The programme – which has been running for 16 years and now supports 1,800 students across 33 States – had previously only been available to refugees living in countries of asylum, UNHCR reported today.

But a funding increase has allowed the programme to expand to include returning refugees and to fund the pursuit of masters degrees and not just diplomas or bachelor degrees.

UNHCR said research indicates that more than 95 per cent of DAFI-funded graduates go on to obtain meaningful employment, especially on return to their home countries, and often in the fields of reconstruction, development and humanitarian relief.

Apollinaire, one of the new batch of students in Bujumbura, was selected on the basis of his performance while previously studying in a refugee camp in neighbouring Tanzania, where he fled in 1993 to escape fighting in his homeland. Thanks to the scholarship, he is now studying business administration.

“I was just as good as all the others in class, but I had to flee Burundi when I was still a secondary student,” he said. “At some point I lost all hope of continuing my education. Some of my schoolmates had by then become doctors and civil servants.”


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