Syrian refugees
Only one percent of refugee youth are enrolled in higher ed compared with 36 percent of youth worldwide. Source: Reuters

It’s hard to imagine a greater distraction from your studies than being forced to flee home because of fear for one’s life.

The InZone initiative, backed by the University of Geneva, is aimed at “pioneering innovative approaches to multilingual communication and higher education in communities affected by conflict and crisis.”

This means it leverages technology to provide tertiary studies to refugees, wherever they may be.

Its fundamental mission is to help people whose education has been disrupted by crisis continue learning by providing equitable access to adaptable higher education models. It did so by launching its first university courses in the Kakuma camp in Kenya back in 2010.

In addition, it strives to “form and reinforce partnerships with local universities, in a joint effort to build capacity on the ground and build back better.”

According to the UNHCR, 3.5 million school-age refugees had zero days of school in 2016. At the tertiary level, only one percent of refugee youth are enrolled in higher education compared with 36 percent of youth worldwide.

Syrian refugee Qusai, who is residing in the Jordanian refugee camp Azraq, decided to take a history course devised by Princeton University through InZone.

“I hadn’t thought about studying history before but there were prestigious institutions involved and I really wanted to take it,” he said.

“We learned about how the countries of Europe rebuilt after World War II, and that gave me hope that we can do the same in Syria.”

InZone now also supports the delivery of an engineering course from Purdue University, with classes held in a computer lab provided by UNHCR and run by non-governmental organisation CARE International.

“Studying with top universities and being connected to the outside world of academia makes you feel part of something bigger — not just a number in a refugee camp,” added Qusai.

Signed last year, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants signed by 193 members of the United Nations emphasises the need for education to be part of the global response to the challenge of migration.

This is key to the mission of InZone, which aims to provide “an environment for the expression of intellectual and cultural diversity, essential ingredients of peace-building and new forms of governance.”

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