From refugee camp to university


    A school for Somali children in the refugee
    camp near the town of Dadaab in northern
    Kenya. Despite the harsh conditions of the
    camp, some of these children may one
    day get the chance to attend university.
    (Image: White House)

    • Sandra Oey
    Publications Officer
    World University Service Canada
    +1 613 761 3714
    +1 800 267 8699 ext 3714
    • Windle Trust Kenya
    +254 20 3876919/22

    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 university scholarships to study in Canada.

    Ahmed Farah Nageye finished high school in 2006 but, living in a refugee camp near the town of Dadaab in northern Kenya, near the Somali border, had little hope of further study. But now he’s off to Canada.

    “I have waited for this day since 2006 and it is finally here,” he said. “My prayers have been answered.”

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

    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 Service 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 passed and were given the scholarships,” Nageye said. One Sudanese student also earned a scholarship.

    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, said 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, where there is a 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.