By Louange A. Koffi
My name is Louange Akossiwa Koffi, a Togolese refugee living in Ghana. I have dedicated my life to championing refugee education and empowering marginalised communities through health education and promotion. This journey led me to join the Refugee Education Council (REC), an initiative funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada and hosted by World Vision Canada, working towards ensuring that global refugee education, programming, and policies are informed by the voices of displaced youth and communities.
I know firsthand the adversities faced by refugees and our arduous journey to access quality education. Having experienced life in the Krisan Refugee Camp, I can attest to the challenges that afflict refugee communities. Limited resources, overcrowded classrooms, and inadequate infrastructure created significant obstacles to learning for me and other young refugees in my community. I struggled daily by commuting miles to access Junior High Education and this paints a sad picture of determination amidst adversity. I vividly remember the day when my fellow refugee colleagues and I experienced a torrential downpour while commuting home from school. The rain was so intense that we were completely drenched in water. I, in particular, was forcefully thrown into a nearby bush by the powerful gusts of wind. It was a chaotic situation, and at one point, I came close to being struck by a speeding vehicle.
Despite the hurdles, I remained undeterred, recognizing the transformative potential of education as a catalyst for change. Though I was determined, accessing high school education was a significant struggle for me. However, thanks to the initiative of tertiary students on the DAFI (Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative) scholarship, I was fortunate enough to be sponsored and have my fees paid throughout high school. While this support was invaluable, the harsh reality soon became evident. I could not afford meals on campus, and even buying treated water for drinking posed a challenge. Despite these obstacles, I persevered through high school. However, the idea of gaining admission and self-sponsoring through further education seemed impossible to achieve. My parents, though willing, were unable to assist financially. I found myself having to stay home for two years, desperately searching for a means to continue my education. But just when it seemed all hope was lost, it was a serendipitous turn of events when DAFI reappeared out of nowhere and sponsored me through nursing school, giving me another chance to pursue my dreams.
It is crucial to acknowledge the distressing reality of sexual abuse and harassment that young refugee girls like myself often endure. It is imperative that we address this issue and work towards creating safe and supportive environments for all students, especially young refugee girls, ensuring they can pursue their education without fear or harm.
Motivated by my own experiences and the plight of fellow refugees, I became a Registered Nurse and embarked on a journey of advocacy, fueled by an unwavering passion for refugee education. I witnessed the transformative impact of education on health outcomes, further strengthening my resolve to make a difference. My unique perspective, coupled with the unwavering commitment, led me to join the REC.
The REC stands as a beacon of hope, driven by a mission to ensure that refugee voices are heard, valued, and incorporated into educational policies and practices. Comprising a diverse group of stakeholders, including refugees, educators, policymakers, and organisations, the REC works collaboratively to address the specific challenges faced by displaced populations. By placing refugees at the centre of the conversation, the REC fosters inclusive, culturally responsive, and sustainable approaches to refugee education.
The experiences, insights, and aspirations of refugees must be acknowledged and integrated into decision-making processes. By doing so, education becomes more relevant, effective, and responsive to the diverse unique needs of refugee communities. I am a testament to the power of lived experiences, advocating for the inclusion of refugee voices in education conversations and governance.
Within the REC, the Youth Manifesto emerged as a powerful tool for change. Crafted by young refugees who yearn for quality education, this manifesto encapsulates our dreams, hopes, and aspirations. The Youth Manifesto amplifies the voices of young refugees, reminding the world that education is a fundamental right that should be accessible to all, regardless of their background or circumstances.
My journey from a Togolese refugee in Ghana to a passionate advocate for refugee education symbolises the transformative power of education and the resilience of the human spirit. Through my involvement with the REC, I embody the principle that refugee education should be informed by refugee voices. The struggle I faced to access quality education, along with the challenges confronted by countless other refugees, highlights the urgent need for change. By listening to and empowering refugee voices, we can effect the change we seek to see.