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Jesuit Refugee Service aims for threefold expansion of higher education to refugees by 2018
April 24, 2013

Jesuit Refugee Service aims for threefold expansion of higher education to refugees by 2018
Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis addresses 800 technology innovators at the Internet2 Annual Meeting in Arlington, Va.
"Just imagine how much brain power and intelligence is lost to the world when a billion people or more are not integrated. We all lose. With technology, we together foster a hope of a more peaceful and humane world," Fr. Balleis said.

(Washington, D.C.) April 24, 2013 – With less than one university-trained teacher for every 280 Darfur refugees in Chad, the case for greater access to higher education is clear. To meet these needs, Jesuit Refugee Service plans to expand its provision of higher education from three to 10 sites by 2018.

Assessments are underway in Afghanistan, Burma and Chad, said JRS International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J. at an international technology meeting in Arlington, Virginia. Held by Internet2, the theme was Big Ideas. Big Collaboration. Big Impact. Eight hundred technology innovators heard Fr Balleis discuss the impact of technology on refugee education.

Georgetown University President John DeGioia, and World Bank Information Communication Technology Policy Specialist Samia Melhem also described how technology, volunteers and advanced networks are enabling organizations to deliver education to students in refugee camps, remote villages, war zones and other areas lacking a civil society.

"The objective of JRS is to empower those at the very edges of our societies — be it due to poverty, location, opportunity or circumstance — through access to higher education ... so that they can contribute their knowledge and wisdom to our global community of learners," said Fr. Balleis.

"Just imagine how much brain power and intelligence is lost to the world when a billion people or more are not integrated. We all lose. With technology, we together foster a hope of a more peaceful and humane world," he said.

According to Fr. Balleis the future will be determined by knowledge, connectedness and access to information. It is the knowledge gap which fuels conflict in places like the Sahel and Afghanistan.

For instance, JRS is managing schools in seven camps in Chad for 60,000 refugee students. The challenge, said F.r Balleis, is to use technology to train all the teachers in the camps in the country.

"To do that, JRS needs access to the internet, computers and solar energy. But it also needs the expertise of universities like Georgetown... I'd like to add one word to today's motto, big 'needs.' With ideas, there is a change of big collaboration and it will have a big impact."

He reminded the audience that their technology inventions are part of something much bigger — global connectedness and learning.

In cooperation with Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, JRS delivers higher education to refugees in Jordan, Kenya and Malawi, with university institutions seeking a practical way to take education where it is needed most. As part of this project, faculty and staff donate time, refugees and staff build their learning spaces, institutions volunteer courses, Microsoft engineers give time and software, and universities provide accreditation.

Internet2 is a technology community founded by leading higher education institutions in 1996, providing a collaborative environment for US research and education organizations. Together, they solve common technology challenges, and develop innovative solutions in support of educational, research, and community service missions.


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Press Contact Information
Mr Christian Fuchs
communicationsdirector@jesuit.org
202-629-5946