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Thursday, April 29, 2010

SOMALIA: From refugee camp to university campus


NAIROBI (IRIN) - They spent most of their lives in crowded refugee camps after their families fled violence in Somalia but now 22 men and six women have won scholarships to study in Canada.


"I have waited for this day since 2006 [when he graduated from high school in the Dadaab refugee camp, northern Kenya] and it is finally here. My prayers have been answered," said Ahmed Farah Nageye.

Nageye, now 21, spent most of his life in Dadaab. "My family came here when I was two years old. I have never known another life,” he told IRIN.

His family fled the civil war in Somalia in 1992, when his father was killed in the southern port city of Kismayo.

Nageye, now 21, spent most of his life in Dadaab. "My family came here when I was two years old. I have never known another life,” he told IRIN.

His family fled the civil war in Somalia in 1992, when his father was killed in the southern port city of Kismayo.

Nageye said he had to struggle to finish high school in Dadaab. "There were days when I would go to school hungry."

He thought of quitting to help his mother take care of the four children. "I wanted to get a job when I was 15 but my mother wouldn’t hear of it. She wouldn’t let me quit school."

The scholarships are being given by the World University Services of Canada working with Windle Trust Kenya, an NGO that helps refugees from East and Horn of Africa access education and training.

Fifty candidates had to take a written and oral English exam. "Twenty-eight of us [and one Sudanese student] passed and were given the scholarships."

Nageye wants to study medicine and go back to Somalia. "I know how doctors are needed in my country. I want to be able to help not only my mother and family but the Somali people."

Hassan Daud, 28, finished high school in 2008 but could not secure a university place.

He had to find some work after finishing high school. "I had to do something so I started helping teach in a school in the camp."

He said it was hard enough for a Somali to get into university but "it is even harder for a refugee. I am so glad and grateful we got this opportunity and I am sure we will take full advantage."

Daud said he wanted to study political science and return to Somalia. "I want to replace these so-called politicians who destroyed our country."

Daud's mother, Barwaaqo Mohamud, told IRIN the family struggled to make sure he stayed in school "and our perseverance paid off. I am so proud of him."

Ali Abdi, another student, said that despite having to wait for two years for a place, he never gave up. "My brother went to university and I wanted to follow in his footsteps."

Abdi wants to study medicine. He spent 18 of his 20 years in the refugee camp and experienced the desperate need for doctors.

The group expects to find out which universities they will be attending in Canada in June and will begin in the autumn term, said Nageye.


Source: Irinnews
ah/mw

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