Beyond Access: Building the Resilience of South Sudanese Refugee Higher Education Students from the Bidi Bidi Settlement, Uganda

  • Christine Semambo Sempebwa Makerere University
Keywords: Refugees, Tertiary Education, Support, Resilience, Uganda
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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), set a global target of 15 percent enrolment of refugees, in higher education, by 2030. Relatedly, UNHCR stated that beyond access, higher education should build individual and collective resilience of refugee students. This paper looks at the support mechanisms various stakeholders use, to build the resilience of South Sudanese refugee higher education students, from Bidi Bidi settlement in Uganda. This is within the context of Uganda’s Education Response (ERP) for refugees and host communities.  The study adopted a qualitative approach, an exploratory case study design, and an advocacy/ participatory philosophical lens, using the intersectional theory. Twenty-seven (27) purposively sampled participants took part in the study. They included 12 undergraduates from two private Ugandan universities, a total of 13 government and non-governmental organization (NGO) officials, and two officials from public and private universities, all involved in refugee higher education. Data was collected through a literature review, in-depth interviews with key informants and students, and a students’ focus group discussion. The study established that, within the context of Uganda’s ERP, South Sudanese refugee higher education students have their resilience built through support, mainly from HEIs and NGOs. The support uses multiple approaches and takes place mainly within the HEIs, with a bit in the settlement.  However, it is offered within each stakeholder’s context and thus takes on a silo rather than integrated approach. Support also does not always consider the individual and complex student needs. Nevertheless, the support, which is relatively student-centred does register good social and academic resilience. The study therefore recommends that through a situational analysis and needs assessment, Uganda develops clear objectives, activities and outcomes in the ERP, to guide stakeholders, towards strengthening refugee higher education students’ resilience. The study also designed a model towards enhancing student resilience


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21 May, 2024
How to Cite
Sempebwa, C. (2024). Beyond Access: Building the Resilience of South Sudanese Refugee Higher Education Students from the Bidi Bidi Settlement, Uganda. East African Journal of Education Studies, 7(2), 255-270.