USA: refugees need opportunities for higher education
09 June 2012

Vincent Cochetel delivered his address to 120 attendees in the University's St. John Francis Regis Chapel on 7 March during the four-day JC:HEM conference, designed to envision and chart the future of a programme that for the past two years has been providing online education to refugees in Kenya, Malawi, and Syria. (Don Doll SJ/JRS)
Cochetel emphasized that higher education is also a critical part of the educational continuum, adding that the possibility of higher education motivates young people to enroll in and complete secondary school, which has a similar impact on demand for primary education.

Denver, 9 June 2012 – Praising the efforts of the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM), the North America regional representative of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) told delegates at an international conference that "we need to be better" when it comes to refugee education.

Vincent Cochetel delivered his address to the 120 attendees who had come to the four-day conference, held at Regis University in Colorado. The aim was to help envision and chart the future of JC:HEM that for the past two years has been providing online education to refugees in Kenya, Malawi, and Syria.

Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins is an initiative of the Society of Jesus that brings Jesuit higher education to those at the margins of society. JC:HEM works with the Jesuit Refugee Service and has enabled more than 250 refugees to study courses online in partnership with a global network of Jesuit universities. Those refugees receive a diploma in liberal studies and pursue community service learning tracks for a certificate of completion that benefit daily life in the camps.

During a 45 minute presentation titled Lives at the Margins – The UN Looks at the Future – Cochetel told the attendees there are 11 million refugees, 27 million internally displaced persons, an estimated 3.5 million stateless persons and 837,000 asylum seekers worldwide. He also discussed where and who refugees are, what they want and their rights.

On average refugees spend 17 years in exile, Cochetel, who joined UNHCR in 1986 and is currently based in Washington DC, told the conference.

After outlining some key challenges for UNHCR, including the shrinking of the humanitarian space and developing an adequate response in the context of growing urbanisation, Cochetel launched into an explanation and discussion on key challenges in higher education, the benefits of higher education for refugees and priorities in relations to higher education – three areas which directly relate to the higher education goals of JC:HEM, and JRS.

"The report is not good", Cochetel said in talking about the key challenges in education. "The enrollment rate is low. Gender parity figures are not good either."

His presentation noted that there is a huge demand for higher education among refugees and that young refugees are often living in despair, wishing to continue their education and to be of greater service to their communities.

Cochetel emphasized the benefits of higher education for refugees, noting that education cultivates civic leadership which is essential to any durable solution, develops skills and confidence, fosters the ability to make strategic life choices, provides training for highly qualified teachers for primary and secondary schools, promotes economic gains.

Speaking with passion, Cochetel told the conference participants that higher education is also a critical part of the educational continuum, adding that "the possibility of higher education motivates young people to enroll in and complete secondary school, which has a similar impact on demand for primary education."

The higher education priorities of UNHCR include increasing scholarships and academic support to secondary schools students, more opportunities for open and distance learning, reducing access to barriers, and expanding opportunities for refugees to participate in para-professional opportunities.

Cochetel also highlighted the important work of the JC:HEM project at two refugee camps (Kakuma in Kenya, Dzaleka in Malawi) and an urban centre (Aleppo in Syria), which began in September 2010.

Faculty members in Regis University's College for Professional Studies (CPS) are among those teaching the online courses in Kenya and Malawi. In fall 2010, CPS faculty and staff initiated the credentialing process, making Regis University the first credentialing university for JC:HEM.

In addition, 15 other Jesuit colleges and universities in the US are also involved in JC:HEM, including Boston College, Canisius University, Creighton University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, Gonzaga University, Marquette University, Seattle University, St Joseph's University, St Louis University, University of San Francisco, Wheeling Jesuit University and Xavier University.

Regis University, with nearly 15,000 students, comprises Regis College, College for Professional Studies and Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions.

For more information about Regis University visit www.regis.edu

Donnie Veasey, Media Relation Director, Regis University, Colorado, USA






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Donnie R Veasey, Media Relation Director, Regis University
dveasey@regis.edu
+1 303 458 3537