Graduates from the Dzaleka refugee camp in southeastern Africa earn diploma

July 23, 2018

Graduates from the Dzaleka refugee camp in southeastern African earn diploma from Regis University

Joyce Kagai smiled for picture after picture with her classmates and family, before directing her five children to come near. 

A 2018 graduate of the Regis University Diploma in Liberal Studies program offered through Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL), Kagai gave the graduation speech on Friday in the Dzaleka refugee camp. But at this moment, it was Kagai and her five children. One by one she made each of them try on her graduation attire. She wanted them to have something to strive for. She wanted them to feel the success. Mainly she wanted them to know the power of education, especially in a place like Dzaleka. 

“By graduating today, it is a testament of courage, hard work and determination on my part,” said Kagai, a Rwanda refugee. “But my main focus is to become an inspiration to my children and to the other women in my community.”

The diploma is offered to refugees and local students in camps across the world. The 45-credit-hour diploma includes 30 core credits in liberal studies and 15 credits in one of three specialties: social work, education or business. Students attend classes in the camps that are taught online by professors at Jesuit institutions across the world.

The 28 graduates that walked across the stage on Friday, were the largest class ever out of Dzaleka. The refugee camp, located in southeastern Africa, houses more than 34,000 refugees. 

“Today I welcome you to the Regis Alumni Association,” said John P. Fitzgibbons, S.J., Regis’ president who gave the commencement speech to graduates in Malawi. “We have 11,000 students and you are now part of that family. I couldn’t be happier.” 

Fitzgibbons and Creighton University President Daniel Hendrickson, S.J., who also attended, told those assembled how important education was, especially to displaced populations like Dzaleka’s camp. 

Earlier in July, Fitzgibbons and Hendrickson were part of a contingent of Jesuit presidents and representatives from Jesuit institutions across the world that attended a conference in Bilbao, Spain. 

The focus was looking at issues impacting their institutions today, but also ways institutions can help educate those at the margins across the world. Programs like JWL are pioneers in the process, having helped refugees with education since 2010. 

“Jesuit education reaches out to the margins,” Hendrickson said. “It’s how my University began. That’s how this program in Dzaleka runs.”

On this day, the power of JWL was on display. Many of the graduates start businesses or lead community-based organizations within the camp. 

Just like Kagai, who in addition to running her own business selling snacks and drinks, is launching an initiative to support young moms called the Teen Mom Association. She knows the importance of community when raising children. 

She also knows how education is a global equalizer. 

“A single community, a single teacher, a single cohort or a single woman can change the world,” she said. 

Established in 1877, Regis University is a premier, globally engaged institution of higher learning in the Jesuit tradition that prepares leaders to live productive lives of faith, meaning and service. One of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation, Regis has four campus locations in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs and extensive online program offerings with more than 11,000 enrolled students. For more information, visit www.regis.edu.