Refugees in Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi District are to benefit from free United States accredited degree programme courtesy of Kepler Rwanda; a nonprofit University program opened a branch in the camp on Friday.
The programme will use the blended learning method and is funded by IKEA foundation, a Dutch based philanthropic group.
Chris Hedrick, Kepler’s Chief Executive Officer, said the program was not only launched to help the refugees improve academically, but to also help them prepare for life out of the camp.
“We believe that all refugee children should have the right to a quality education and ideally, but also the opportunity to access higher education when desired. We are assisting them prepare for a life outside the camp,” he said.
“Together with our partners, we aim both to support these incredibly high potential students to improve academically, and also to develop a model that can be useful in refugee camps around the world. We are delighted to expand our work in Rwanda where the leadership embraces innovation designed to expand access to affordable, high quality education and career preparation for motivated and deserving students”.
The programme in Kiziba camp started with an initial intake of 25 refugees with additional intakes of the same size envisaged for 2016 and 2017. Upon graduation, students will be awarded a US accredited university degree with Kepler’s credentialing partner Southern New Hampshire University.
Beneficiaries thrilled with the program
Abraham Murutampunzi, one of the initial intakes in the programme, said the chance will help him to improve life.
“Life is not easy in the camp as we only survive on the support of UNHCR and partners. As I am granted this chance to pursue entrepreneurship related courses, I will use the knowledge to venture into entrepreneurship to change the living conditions for both myself and my family. It is an opportunity for me to expand my mind and look on how to implement my dreams to own a business,” he said.
“This is a chance for us to expand our knowledge and skills which will open new horizons for us. I wish the programme would be expanded further in the coming years”, said Hyacinthe Kazege, another student.
Azam Saber, a representative of the the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Rwanda, challenged the beneficiaries to take advantage of the chance granted to them to turn their dreams into reality.
“This is the first ever university to open a programme in a refugee camp worldwide. It is then an occasion for you to exploit your potentials that have been inhibited by the situation you are living in. If you believe that you need to have a bright future, use this chance to shape it from now,” he advised the students.
“Most powerful leaders in Africa and elsewhere on the globe once experienced life in refugee camps. I am really convinced that you also can make it”, he told the refugees
Seraphine Mukantabana, the Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) said the Kepler program was a milestone to the issue of tertiary education for refugees in Rwanda.
“In addition to enabling refugees to have access to university education, it will also open job opportunities for the beneficiaries in order to achieve self-reliance,” she noted.
“Our government wishes refugees to have access to all levels of formal education and vocational skills trainings, because, we hope that knowledge is the most important treasure that refugees will carry, if time comes for them to go back home, or in case they get opportunity to go elsewhere in the world”, Mukantabana stated
Kiziba refugee camp hosts 17,155 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.