UNHCR calls for Cypriot universities to offer study opportunities to young refugees
By Marios Demetriou
18-year-old sisters from Cameroon, Ruddy-Alocha EBUA (Nicoletta) and Edith-Britney Ade (Dimitra) living in Nicosia are waiting impatiently for a beautiful summer, expecting to come in September and begin their studies at the Department of French and European Studies of the University of Cyprus. Since 2005, when they came in Cyprus, they are together in the same school consecutively in kindergarten in Agios Dometios, in the primary school of Kaimakli and in the High school of Pallouriotissa, where they graduated a month ago. At the graduation ceremony, on June 29, 2018, Dimitra was awarded for her performance in French, with a grade of 19.5, the highest grade in the Pancyprian Examinations. Their very good rating in the Pancyprian Examinations, (18.5 Dimitra and 17 Nicoletta), being their ticket for entry to the country’s top public school, is an important moment of a course full of difficult challenges in the educational system, as children of recognized refugees, different from their Greek Cypriot classmates, of their origin, color, language and cultural history, but determined to claim and to gain with their value the right – and all the obligations arising from it – to integrate equally in Cypriot society, to educate, to work and to live safely, like all their fellow citizens.
Greater state support
Nicoletta and Dimitra spoke at newspaper “24” for these challenges on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at a meeting in the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cyprus (UNHCR) which monitors and assists the family , from the beginning of its establishment on the island. As the UNHCR Officer, Emilia Strovolidou, pointed out, “the two sisters belong to this small percentage of refugee children who manage to study in universities, in their host countries. The big challenge in education is regarding the 15-year-olds and 16-year-olds children who come to Cyprus in ‘’old’’ age and go directly to high school or Lyceum. It is much harder for them to enter the University of Cyprus and we do not have such cases. We have only cases like Dimitra and Nicoletta, who came to a younger age and attended primary school in Cyprus, and it is more feasible for these children to succeed at the Pancyprian exams and being admitted to the University. Therefore, there is a need for greater support from the state for these children to be able to compete with the rest of the population and to claim a position in the public university. To mention that, as UNHCR, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Nicosia which provides among others scholarships – in whole or in part – to refugee children. ” Let us point out that today, according to a UNHCR global report, over 65 million people worldwide have been uprooted by war and persecution, of which 21 million are refugees and more than half are children. Of these children, only 50% have access to primary education, 22% to secondary education and only 1% to tertiary education.