The importance of education cannot be overstated, and most people would agree that education is a fundamental right and a key factor in human development. The global quest to ensure quality education for all by 2030 is included in the Sustainable Development Goals. However, meeting this ambitious target for the over 65 million people who have been forced to leave their homes by conflict, famine, fear of persecution or a multitude of other reasons remains an enormous challenge.
The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) aims to address this challenge through their Global Education Initiative, which CJI is supporting. This initiative aims to educate 100,000 more refugee children, youth and adults by 2020. This is imperative because education is a tool for building peace, restoring dignity and recovering livelihoods.
A fitting example of how JRS works with refugees in improving livelihood prospects is in their work in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. Dollo Ado in southeast Ethiopia is an arid, rocky and isolated place. Despite its desert-like characteristics, this region across the border from Somalia has become a destination for refugees fleeing famine and conflict.
JRS runs a skills training centre in Dollo Ado that serves over 300 refugees a year. It offers plumbing, barbering, tailoring, henna and embroidery classes and provides the trainees with hands-on, skills-based learning that they can use to earn an income and gain employment in the camps and beyond.
CJI is raising awareness of the skills training centre through our “Go for Dollo” campaign for schools. Our school partners are invited to learn not only about the importance of education for refugees, but also about how and why access to education is a key social justice issue and a tool for achieving peace. Students are challenged to see why there are so many people today fleeing their homes, reflect on what it means to have substantive barriers to education and how they can be overcome, and act in solidarity with the work of our partners through advocacy, awareness raising and fundraising for the Dollo Ado training centre.
While our hope is always toward a future in which people are no longer forced to flee their homes and rebuild their lives, today we work toward responding to their needs in order to help them recover their hope for the future.
This article was first published under the title “Educating refugees” in the Winter 2017 issue of Jesuit, a newsletter of the Jesuits in English Canada.