Peshawar: at a prestigious graduation ceremony, exultant Afghan refugee students walked tall as they received scholarship completion certificates under the Deutsche Akademische Fluchtlinge Initiative Albert Einstein (DAFI) scholarships in Islamabad.
DAFI, the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative is a scholarship assistance program for refugees, funded by the German Government and implemented worldwide by the UN refugee agency through partner organizations.
The scholarships, for study at the tertiary level in universities and polytechnic institutions, offer a lifeline to many poor refugees. The DAFI Programme aims to encourage the development of qualified human resources for the future reconstruction of refugees’ home countries upon repatriation, thereby supporting greater peace and stability in the region.
In Islamabad on Monday, 27 students from ten different educational institutes received their graduation certificates at a ceremony organized by Inspire Pakistan, UNHCR’s implementing partner for the scholarship program.
Present at the occasion were the German Ambassador to Pakistan, H.E. Ina Lepel; UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Indrika Ratwatte; Qaiser M. Siddiqui, CEO, Inspire Pakistan; Mr, Kashif M Khan, Director Linkages and Industrial Liaison, Iqra University Islamabad; Mr. Fayaz Ahmad Khan, Assistant Professor, Institute of Management Sciences, Peshawar; DAFI scholars and their parents.
Speaking at the occasion, German Ambassador to Pakistan, Ms. Ina Lepel said, the purpose of the DAFI programme is to assist self-reliance among refugees by providing them with professional qualification for future employment. Ms. Lepel noted that, “The DAFI scholarship is a stepping stone, turning dreams into reality and the German government is proud to be a sponsor of this initiative.”
In Pakistan, since 1992 until to date, DAFI scholarships have supported approximately 2,200 Afghan refugee students, out of which around 20 percent scholarships were awarded to female students. In 2015, a total number of students who remained active were 143; (122 males and 31 females) 63 students were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 45 from Punjab and Islamabad, 33 from Baluchistan and 2 from Karachi.
The majority of scholarship holder students are enrolled in government and semi-autonomous (more than 66 percent) institutes but a small number are also in private institutes.
Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Representative in Pakistan appreciated the German Government for its continued sponsorship of the DAFI scholarships and other refugee projects in the country.
Ratwatte said, “Investing in refugee youth’s education is an investment in their future and in the generations to come.” He added that educated youth could become the agents of peace, stability and development if provided the right conditions.
He stressed that “It is important to ensure every child’s right to education as this is an essential empowerment and that youth with no education and skills could fall prey to extremism and become the agents of instability which the world cannot afford.”
Qaiser M. Siddiqui, CEO Inspire Pakistan said, “A refugee in every way is more vulnerable as almost every refugee family has a member who leaves his studies to support the living’’. He further said that DAFI scholarship programme is not only helping in educating Afghan students in Pakistan, but it also ensures that they become qualified human resource who would help in development of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Speakers highlighted that in a country, like Pakistan, where more than half of the total registered Afghan refugees are children below the age of 18, DAFI graduates who return home will not only find a durable solution for themselves and their family, but are also likely to find employment and contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation process for the whole community.
Since its inception, the DAFI programme has grown considerably and on annual basis enables over 2,240 refugee students to study at universities and colleges in over 41 countries of asylum worldwide. Since 1992, the German government has donated, on average, more than USD 2 million every year to UNHCR for this programme.
Afghanistan’s refugee population constitutes the largest protracted situation in the world. Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for over 35 years now. The registered 1.5 million Afghan refugees in the country represent 14 per cent of the total refugee population worldwide and is one of UNHCR’s largest and longest lasting refugee operations.