Opportunity for Resettlement and Higher Education in Canada
On August 17th and 23rd twenty-eight refugees departed Kakuma for Canada, where they will pursue higher-education and a new life outside the refugee camp.
This August, 28 refugees departed from Kakuma Refugee Camp to head to Canada. A year ago, these individuals were selected for the World University Service of Canada’s (WUSC) Student Refugee Program (SRP), a great opportunity for studies abroad.
The WUCS program began in 1978, and since then has assisted thousands of refugee students to resettle in Canada and pursue a university education. According to the WUSC website, the program has welcomed refugees originating from countries such as Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Comoros Islands, DRC, Ethiopia, Eretria, Ghana, Guatemala, Iran, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zaire, and Zimbabwe. This program is unique in that students not only receive an opportunity for resettlement but are also granted scholarships for fully-paid higher education.
WUSC also includes refugee students from urban areas of Nairobi where they join classes together with students at Kakuma Camp. Eligible students undergo three major steps of learning, namely research, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOFEL), and computer basic studies. In Kakuma Camp, the university selection process is overseen by local NGO Windle Trust Kenya (WKT). A WTK official who spoke with KANERE explained, “University selection is outside our mandate. So after TOEFL, the placement would be done by WUSC, who also facilitates this process entirely when they apply to a respective university for a particular student’s case.”
Through conversations with WTK staff in Kakuma and the WUSC website, KANERE found that WUSC is a student-founded program established by students in Canadian universities to offer assistance for refugees all over the world. It is partially supported by dedicated contributions by Canadian students. Faculty and volunteers from universities and colleges in Canada contribute financial support to enhance the living situation for sponsored students during their first year in Canada. The program is small compared to the global need, because there are so many capable students and the request for opportunities is always enormous.
This is an incredible opportunity for refugees who are selected, but there are always challenges in terms of adapting to the culture and the new environment. The students never forget their refugee background, and sometimes there is pressure from family and friends who are left behind in the camps and the countries of origin. As G. Deng, a 2010 WUSC student states, “Personally, WUSC has brought back positivity in life. I used to see the world through a negative lens because of what I had gone through, I could not see any bright future for me. But today, all is changed as I will be resettled and join the University. The fact is that I will miss my family, with whom I am parting and not knowing when to get reunified again in our life time.”
According to information obtained in the WTK field office at Kakuma, every year some refugees are rewarded with this unique scholarship to Canada. The number of student applicants is large, and only the few who are able to meet the required criterion will be given a scholarship opportunity. In the year 2009, 30 students from Kakuma went to Canada. There were 28 students in 2010, and 30 are scheduled to leave in 2011. “This progam is student-managed, as the members and sponsors are also students from Canadian Universities. In Kakuma it runs from August to August and this year we have 30 applicants on board,” said an official at WTK in an interview with a KANERE journalist.