Nasira (1)

Einstein scholarships bring hope to refugee students in South Sudan

South Sudan is well known for the armed conflict that has wreaked havoc on millions of its citizens. It is less known for the 260,000 exiles from wars in neighbouring countries to whom it provides refuge. The DAFI scholarship has brought new hopes to young people among the refugee population, giving them hope, helping to relieve painful memories of war, and paying for the education they would otherwise be denied.

Apaikindi, Nasira and Daud are first-year students at St Mary’s College, among South Sudan’s first ever DAFI students. Currently there are 14, a number that is expected to increase over the next four years. 12 are from Sudan and two from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). DAFI is the German acronym for the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund scholarship. The was fund launched in 1992 and enables refugees to study at universities in their host countries. DAFI is funded by the German government.

DAFI is the German acronym for the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund scholarship, launched in 1992, that enables refugees to study at universities in their host countries.

Berepayo Apaikindi Bernadette was separated from her parents in 2013 when she fled violence in her native Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She ended up in Makpandu refugee settlement in Western Equatoria state. “During the peak of Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) horrendous attack in town, my parents encouraged me to flee to South Sudan,” she says. “There was a risk I could be abducted. I chose to flee to a place where it was safer. I was also able to me continue my studies.”

23-year-old Apaikindi listens attentively to lectures on her first day of class at St Mary’s College. She has just started her diploma course in Education. She hopes to specialise in teaching, following in the footsteps of her uncle. When she was 15, the family lived near a primary school in Dungu. “I admired his work and walked alongside him every morning to school,” she recalls. She is grateful that there is a Faculty of Education at St Mary College.

“I fled to a place where it was safer. I was able to continue my studies.”

Apaikindi’s parents still live in Dungu in the northeast of DRC. She communicates with them via mobile phone, although these days contacts are interrupted frequently because of the conflict in South Sudan. “Last year, networks were turned off sporadically due lack of fuel in Yambio,” she says. “I am glad the DAFI scholarship brought me to Juba. It is easier to communicate with my parents back in DRC.”

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