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October 2, 2019 Centre for Peace and Justice

Higher education is a basic human right and if one take’s it for granted for one’s own child, it should be the same for refugees, said an award-winning lecturer of Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

People in displacement situations are already receiving diplomas, as exemplified by cases in Kenya where distance learning was ensured with content coming from around the world to learning units inside camps, added the teacher, Dr Zeliha Gül İnanç Walsh.

Dr Walsh was addressing a public lecture on “Forced Displacement, Education and Opportunities” organised by the Centre for Peace and Justice (CPJ) of Brac University at BRAC Centre Inn on Wednesday, 02 October 2019.

Dr Walsh spoke on founding the Opening Universities for Refugees (OUR), an international non-profit which works closely with displaced communities in the Asia-Pacific region.

By using technology and fostering a culture of institutional openness and inclusion, the OUR aims to harness the expertise of higher education institutions to transcend existing borders of knowledge sharing and hitherto impermeable geo-cultural boundaries.

Through the provision of higher education, the OUR seeks to restore the dignity and hope of communities in crisis.

Challenges remain in providing higher education for refugees such as a lack of leadership within some universities, lack of funding, balancing politics while avoiding politicisation and balancing needs of refugees with that of vulnerable communities of host countries, she said.

There are ways forward, the short term ones being through providing special student visa status for volunteering universities and international cooperation and sharing responsibilities, said Dr Walsh.

The long term ones are training teachers within the communities and producing new curricula through UNESCO and the region’s education ministries and initiating a city movement model engaging municipalities and universities, she said.

Moreover, non-residential graduate fellowships can be provided for action oriented policy reports, she added.

Manzoor Hasan OBE, the CPJ executive director, gave the closing remarks