Good News Waiting
Naser passed eighth grade exams, but would he be able to share the news with his separated family in Somalia?
“After my father died in the civil war and I received threats from his murderers, I ran away. The last time I saw my mother and siblings was in 2018.”
Naser (unreal name) is one of the 258,882 registered refugees and asylum-seekers from 57 countries that Egypt currently hosts according to the latest reports of UNHCR. Among this refugee community are 97,002 children out of which 4,067 children are unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) like Naser.
When Naser arrived at Egypt, a fellow Somali teenager told him about an opportunity which, ultimately would change his life.
Re-enrollment for African students in Egypt
Despite being eligible to take the Sudanese certification exams in Egypt, UASCs from refugee communities need a lot of help and support to catch up as they left school for a year or more due to conflict or war in their countries.
With the generous support from the Embassy of the Netherlands, UNICEF implements the Accelerated Learning and Life Skills program (ALP) for African refugees in Egypt. This program helps African UASC to prepare for re-enrollment in formal education in age and skill-appropriate grades.
For two years, African students receive educational, financial and psychological support along with protection services whenever possible. This is done through UNICEF implementing partner Catholic Relief Service (CRS).
COVID-19 and exams
COVID-19 locked down all educational facilities and postponed exams for several months in 2020, including the eighth-grade exams in the Sudanese education system which Nasser was ready to take.
Nevertheless, Nasser continued to receive support through online platforms. CRS developed a variety of mitigation methods to encourage the 58 ALP students to continue their studying despite the atmosphere of uncertainty, which created a sense of community support and solidarity.
Transformation into a virtual environment: education and support
Nasser and his colleagues were shifted to online classes. They used WhatsApp groups to communicate with each other and their teachers. Internet bundle subscription top-ups were provided to the students’ monthly stipends to ensure their online access.
Eman is an Ethiopian consultant at CRS who worked closely ith Nasser and his colleagues. As she helped them with the translation, the children were more likely to comply and commit to the sessions. Occasionally in their conversations with Eman, you can hear Somali and Amharic words in reminiscence of their homelands. “I had a good chance to offer tips, articulate their needs better and communicate them to my Egyptian colleagues as I understood how it felt like being an African migrant in Egypt more than anybody.”
Out of this notion, as part of the life skills sessions, CRS arranged for speakers from the refugee community and ALUMNI of the ALP to share their university experiences and how they paved their own paths.
After a few months in this situation, exams took place and Nasser was among the top five in his class. He is now trying, with the help of several organizations, to contact his family back home to share the good news, and hopefully hear some good news from them as well.