SNHU Vice President and GEM Executive Director Rachael Sears reflects on World Refugee Day and how to make “hope away from home” a reality for all refugees.
Every year on June 20th, we come together to celebrate and honor the strength and resilience of the more than 100 million of refugees worldwide forced to flee their homes. This year’s World Refugee Day theme, “hope away from home,” felt so relevant to our Southern New Hampshire University Global Education Movement (SNHU GEM) family. Afterall, this community is truly about hope, and the promise of a brighter future through education.
But we know that far too many of our students, alumni, GEM community, and refugees around the world, face significant obstacles, including barriers to accessing education. For many refugees, the dream of pursuing their education seems impossible. Worldwide, nearly half of all refugee children are out of school, and just six percent of refugees have access to tertiary education. While this is an improvement from 2019 when just one percent had access, we are still a long way away from the UNHCR 15by30 higher education enrollment goal.
SNHU GEM is on a mission to change that. While access to basic needs like food, water, safety, and shelter is a critical first step, we cannot stop there if we are truly going to provide hope for and empower refugees. We must look beyond those baseline services to the bigger picture of how to support refugees so they can fulfill their potential, have a positive impact in their community, pursue their dreams, and hope.
Long-term and holistic support for refugees must include access to education and pathways to employment.
Together with students, alumni, and our partners, SNHU GEM is meeting students where they are and providing flexible, high-quality, U.S.-accredited degrees for refugees. We emphasize building real-world skills that employers are looking for, making our graduates competitive in the global marketplace. And when refugees have access to markets, they create ripple effects and economic returns for their community and host country.
Students discuss how SNHU GEM’s partnership with the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town in South Africa has transformed their lives.
We know this model works. The proof is in our learner outcomes. More than 85% of our graduates find meaningful employment within six months of graduating, and 70% of our 4-year bachelor’s students complete their degree. But it’s more than that. As one student in South Africa, Angeline Sibanda said, “I want to inspire my children. I want to show them you can be who you want to be regardless of any circumstance you find yourself in. SNHU has changed my life.”
Over the last few months I’ve visited our sites in Lebanon, South Africa, and Rwanda. Everytime I travel to our sites, I am simply blown away by the determination and achievements of our students and alumni. I met some of our “sprinter” students who completed an AS, then graduated with a BA in one year or less, led a new student orientation alongside our partner in South Africa, the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town, and heard about the future plans of our latest graduating class of SNHU GEM students.
All of them truly embody “hope away from home,” not just for themselves, but their families, communities, and beyond. So on this World Refugee Day, and everyday, the entire SNHU GEM family is celebrating our students and alumni, and affirming our commitment to them. Together, we can build a world in which all refugees have access to affordable, quality, higher education, pathways to employment, and the opportunities and tools to turn hope into reality.