The current tertiary education climate at institutions of higher learning in South Africa poses a number of issues for foreign refugee and asylum-seeking students, including documentation requirements and high costs for foreign learners. Unity for Tertiary Refugee Students (UTRS) was founded in 2004 by a group of young refugees and asylum seekers from different countries who encountered these problems while applying for tertiary education in South Africa. This program addresses the issues related to migrants in an effort to make tertiary education open and accessible to them. This is done by identifying and/or creating funding opportunities from which the most needy and deserving refugee and asylum-seeking tertiary students can benefit, by raising awareness and educating host communities about refugees in South Africa, by promoting integration and social cohesion within the student communities at tertiary institutions, and by influencing current education policies by lobbying on behalf of refugee and asylum-seeking students.
The core of the UTRS program is the workshops that are provided free-of-charge to refugees and asylum-seekers pursuing tertiary education. Regular workshops include orientation workshops, short skill courses, sessions on connecting with NGOs, curriculum vitae compilation, bursary assistance, workshops for qualified young professionals looking for jobs, parent workshops, and career workshops.
UTRS has managed to reintegrate refugees who have abandoned their studies into the university system by negotiating on a case-by-case basis with their respective institutions. Through UTRS lobbying and advocacy efforts, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pretoria has settled outstanding fees of some refugee graduates at tertiary institutions, has raised the age limit to qualify for the DAFI bursary program to 30, and has increased the number of bursaries being offered to refugees and asylum seekers to over 100 per year.
In addition to working with refugee and asylum-seeking students, UTRS also works with local high school learners, in Career Preparedness Workshops. These workshops addrses the gap at the secondary level in helping students prepare for tertiary education. Through the workshops, potential tertiary entrants are better prepared to enter academic life and to make better use of the scarce resources available that enable tertiary education. In this way, UTRS is able to 'give back' to the host community.
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CEI approaches in actionFinancingScholarships and financial aidStudent/household loansPolicy & AnalysisStudent support
Model details2004Not-for-profitOtherWorkshops, Career guidance, facilitation of financial aid, linking of young professionals and employment opportunities.ActiveLong-term projectFree service or product
There is no charge for the application process for students, short skill courses, ongoing mentoring and guidance, and the workshops. The funder sponsors the running costs of the workshops and a stipend for an intern, who is responsible for administration of the program.UTRS
BeneficiariesDisplaced individualsOrphans and vulnerable childrenOtherRefugees and asylum seekers from outside South Africa and South African Secondary School Students
Workshops covering a variety of topics, such as orientation, career guidance and curriculum vitae compilation are offered to learners and parents, free of charge, during the course of the year.
TechnologyMobile phoneOtherTo provide communication updates, raise awareness, campaign, and for the purpose of marketing, lobbying, and advocacy.
This program was founded in December 2004 by 15 refugees and asylum-seekers. Currently, eight of the founding members of UTRS guide and mentor an average of 1,300 refugees, asylum-seekers, and local learners per year.
As funding becomes available, UTRS plans to expand and scale-up their organization by establishing branches throughout South Africa and across the African continent.
Monitoring & EvaluationNo
UTRS has been difficult to monitor because each intervention is very complex and includes ongoing psycho-social support, mentoring, and guidance.Internal assessment performanceUser satisfactionAbility to reach the poorGraduation or promotion ratesEmployment ratesNo