Welcoming former refugees at airports across the country each August marks a significant milestone for our Student Refugee Program. Each student that arrives to begin their post-secondary education journey in Canada reflects the culmination of months of hard work among our Local Committee network and school administrations, and the generosity of our donors to create more education opportunities for refugee youth.
Each June, these students mark a significant milestone in their own lives as they are awarded their diplomas and degrees, a culmination of their own hard work and resilience. In addition to the traditional challenges in gaining a post-secondary education, many of these students have also had to adapt to a new education system, learn new technologies, and take classes in their second – or even third – language.
Education opportunities like these are out of reach for many young refugees. Only 61% of refugee children attend primary school, compared with 91% globally. The number of students in school decreases as children get older; less than a quarter of refugee youth go to secondary school, and just 1% of refugee youth have access to post-secondary education.
Join us in celebrating this year’s Student Refugee Program graduates who have overcome incredible odds and are now taking the next steps on their journey toward a promising future for themselves and their families.
Meet some of our 2019 Graduates
University of Northern British Columbia, BA ‘19
Priscilla Taw first heard about the Student Refugee Program from a teacher when she was living in Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand. At first, she decided not to apply so she could spend time volunteering and giving back to her community. It wasn’t until she met a former SRP student who told her about the potential that a post-secondary education could offer her, that she decided to submit her application. This eventually led to her acceptance, and enrolment into the University of Northern British Columbia.
Priscilla is now graduating with a degree in political science and a minor in international studies. She has been an active student on campus, volunteering with different student groups, and interacting with a diverse range of peers. “Those were some of the most rewarding and best moments for me,” she said. While adjusting to Canadian life and our education system was not always easy, Priscilla says she persevered and found a place for herself in the UNBC community.
Priscilla is a very involved member of the Karen Community of Canada (KCC)’s Advocacy Team. “I want to encourage youth, especially my Karen people, to continue their studies,” she said. “They have so many privileges, opportunities, and freedom in this country. There are many people from Myanmar and around the world who do not have access to education, or cannot afford it.”
Priscilla hopes to continue to advocate for human rights for everyone, by pursuing more education and eventually working for an NGO or the UN.
McGill University, BSW ‘19
For Vincent Yagatandi, the SRP was his only opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education. “There were a limited number of education prospects for me,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to pay for university in Malawi — there would have been no opportunity for me to go to university without WUSC.”
After being accepted to the SRP, he began his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at McGill University in 2015. While he was nervous upon his arrival to Canada, he quickly found a place for himself at McGill. “I met a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds,” he said. “It’s been amazing talking to people who have different views from mine and interacting with them, becoming friends with them.”
During his time at McGill, Vincent made it his priority to give back to his community. When he was co-chair of the Local Committee, he worked with the administration and School of Social Work to create an internship for social work students to receive credits by supporting SRP students’ integration.
Vincent later returned to Dzaleka to work with Jesuit Refugee Services in their psychosocial department, as part of his degree. “That was one of the achievements I was happy about,” he said. “I was able to go back to the community I grew up in, and be of help. That was really rewarding.”
Vincent will now be pursuing a joint degree in Law (BCL/LLB) and Master of Social Work at McGill University this fall. He wants to continue to change policies, give back to communities, and advocate for those who are facing injustices.
Vincent says that he would not have made it this far without his strong support network. “I’m grateful to WUSC for the opportunity and for believing in me. It would not have been possible without the support of the Local Committee, my friends on campus, and my great professors.”
Since its establishment in 1978, more than 1,900 refugee youth have been welcomed onto Canadian campuses through the Student Refugee Program (SRP) to continue their education. The SRP is the only program of its kind to combine resettlement with opportunities for post-secondary education. Make a donation to support the education of refugees.