EDUCATION: Responding to the Needs of Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia


Despite a number of challenges, around 85% of the Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia are estimated to complete their studies successfully.

By Wondwosen Tamrat and Samuel Dermas (The World View)

The refugee crisis around the world has been repeatedly described as one of the worst challenges the human race has confronted since the end of World War II. According to 2016 UNHCR data, 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced globally because of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. While more than 40 million of these are internally displaced, 22.5 million are identified as refugees.

Contrary to common expectations, eighty-four percent of the world’s refugees or 14.5 million people are accommodated in developing countries. The five top countries that host the highest number of refugees are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Islamic Republic of Iran, and Ethiopia, in that order. Currently, Ethiopia hosts more than 850,000 people—the largest in Africa-—from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and the Sudan. The Eritrean refugees account for 160, 000 or 19 % of the total.

As a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and many other international legal instruments Ethiopia is obliged to provide the necessary support to the refugees it hosts.

In general, knowledge about refugee higher education is scant across the world, suggesting an important line of inquiry that is yet evolving. This article examines Ethiopia’s approach towards providing higher education for refugees and draws on a larger study made on the subject.

Initiatives and Opportunities

One of the refugee schemes Ethiopia has adopted since 2010 is known as the out-of-camp scheme. It allows refugees to live and move freely across the country, opening opportunities for pursuing their education and engaging in gainful employment. As a result of this scheme alone, around 17,345 refugees live in Addis Ababa. Another scheme created for refugees, especially of Eritrean origin, is the provision of free university scholarships at Ethiopian public higher institutions.

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