• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Once an Afghan refugee in Iran, now a high-flier in his own country

Telling the Human Story, 5 August 2013

© UNHCR
With Iran's generosity in providing access to education for refugees, the younger generation of Afghan refugees in Iran has become increasingly enthusiastic about education.

TEHRAN, Islamic Republic of Iran, August 5 (UNHCR) Twenty-eight years after his family fled war in Afghanistan to neighbouring Iran, Seyyed Zia Hosseini has returned home from the country that gave him shelter and an education that allows him to help rebuild his native land.

Hosseini is one of many Afghan refugees returning to their country as successful graduates from Iranian universities. Two years after returning, Hosseini is a senior consultant to Afghanistan's Minister of Urbanization. "I even have the opportunity to become minister."

Hosseini was one year old when he fled with his mother and four-year-old sister from Sar-e-Pol in Afghanistan, first to Pakistan and then to the Islamic Republic of Iran, where they settled in the holy city of Qom.

Hosseini was a very successful student and eventually got a scholarship from the Iranian government that led to a PhD in Project Management and Development from Tehran University.

"Me and my sister, also a PhD holder and university professor in Qom, both studied in Iran and are very happy to have been fortunate enough to get so far," Hosseini said. Following his graduation, he married and moved back to Afghanistan with his new bride.

With Iran's generosity in providing access to education for refugees, the younger generation of Afghan refugees in Iran has become increasingly enthusiastic about education. According to a 2009 census by the Iranian government, literacy among Afghan refugees has increased from 6 per cent in 1981 to 69 per cent in 2009.

UNHCR, which has taken refugee education extremely seriously, is grateful to Iran. The UN refugee agency has supported the Iranian Ministry of Education in providing primary and secondary education for refugee students and implementation of additional educational programmes to address the most critical needs of refugees.

Another important element has been the Iranian government's initiative to provide older out-of-school refugees with the opportunity to catch up through literacy classes held by the Ministry of Education.

"UNHCR intervenes to alleviate the burden of different educational fees on refugee families, enabling them to send their children, including girls, to school," says Bernard Doyle, UNHCR's representative in Iran, lauding the Iranian government for its years of effort to educate refugees.

Among education projects implemented by UNHCR, are construction of schools in refugee-populated areas, the provision of equipment and supplies for schools where the majority of pupils are Afghan, equipping libraries in both settlements and urban areas, providing transportation to students from settlements and helping vulnerable students to cover part of their educational costs such as registration fees, books and stationary.

Although Hosseini enjoyed every educational possibility in Iran, he firmly believes that returning to a homeland is best for every refugee. He has enjoyed good opportunities and hopes to remain in Afghanistan.

"Even though I know that not all refugees have the same conditions and truly not all can return, I'd like to tell all Afghans that no matter which country they go to, it won't be home," Hosseini said, "It would be best if they returned and benefitted from their education received abroad, and used their acquired skills to help rebuild their own country."

By Dina Faramarzi in Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Education

Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

With elections scheduled in October, 2004 is a crucial year for the future of Afghanistan, and Afghans are returning to their homeland in record numbers. In the first seven months of 2004 alone, more than half a million returned from exile. In all, more than 3.6 million Afghans have returned since UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme started in 2002.

The UN refugee agency and its partner organisations are working hard to help the returnees rebuild their lives in Afghanistan. Returnees receive a grant to cover basic needs, as well as access to medical facilities, immunisations and landmine awareness training.

UNHCR's housing programme provides tool kits and building supplies for families to build new homes where old ones have been destroyed. The agency also supports the rehabilitation of public buildings as well as programmes to rehabilitate the water supply, vocational training and cash-for-work projects.

Rebuilding Lives in Afghanistan

Beyond 'Those People'Play video

Beyond 'Those People'

Young people in remote regions of Colombia's Tolima department are at high risk of displacement and recruitment. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has set up education projects to support and protect children and youth. This project has been carried out as part of the EU's Children of Peace initiative, which uses the money from the EU's 2012 Nobel Peace Prize to help children affected by conflict.
Pakistan: Returning HomePlay video

Pakistan: Returning Home

Since the beginning of November, UNHCR has been offering an enhanced package to every registered refugee in Pakistan choosing to go home to Afghanistan.
Mauritania: Learning in the DesertPlay video

Mauritania: Learning in the Desert

UNHCR works to give children access to education while they are living in exile.