42 refugee students currently enrolled in three universities in Malaysia as a result of strong advocacy with tertiary institutions by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
“I’m the only person in my family to have access to education and to have gotten this far. I also want to be an example to other women who are afraid to achieve the things they want.” – Nawa.
For most of her life, Nawa watched as other children went to school. As a refugee, and a girl at that, she was told there was no place for her in the classroom.
That looked set to continue when she arrived in Malaysia, where refugees do not have access to formal education under the national school system. But thanks to the Fugee School, a refugee learning centre in Kuala Lumpur, the Somali refugee was able to start her first-ever lessons at an age when her peers were graduating from secondary school. “I spent 16 years not having access to education and wanting to learn so badly. When I first got my backpack to start Fugee School, I would literally put it on and stare at the mirror just imagining myself as a student,” Nawa says with a laugh. “I started in fifth grade with classmates who were 10 years old or younger. They made fun of me, but I tried to ignore it.” Last year Nawa graduated with an International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and was accepted to study at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus, where she is doing her foundation course. She is one of 42 refugee students currently enrolled in three universities in Malaysia as a result of strong advocacy with tertiary institutions by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.