Nigerian-born John Thanuwa has been accorded the opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree at Luiss University in Rome. He joins a pool of smart, poised and viable youths from across the globe to undertake the academic journey.
Unlike many of his peers however, Thanuwa’s track is one with a difference, initially forged for failure and possibly, death. Barely months ago, the youngster was among tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees fighting for survival at the Minawao refugee camp in the Far North region of Cameroon.
The camp was erected in July 2013 by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to cater for victims of the Boko Haram war plaguing primarily, the Lake Chad Basin area. Built for an estimated 15,000 it is said to currently hold about 60,000 who survive daily thanks to charities, the Cameroon government and international partners.
Over the years, thousands of refugees have been repatriated from the camp back home to Nigeria, a process the Cameroon government and partners insist is voluntary. The last set comprised of 455 refugees returned home in January 2023. Upon departing, they were handed mattresses and a few other items to start a life back home in Nigeria.
In addition to returning to the ruins they left back as many as ten years ago for some of the refugees, they would also have to keep fighting to not be swallowed up by the overwhelming challenges of life and constant rising cost of living. For many, this could mean staying out of school to make ends meet.
But Thanuwa is fortunate and will have a different story to tell someday. He is one of 69 refugees benefiting from a UNICORE scholarship for his Master’s programme in Digital Innovation & Sustainability at Luiss University. Other beneficiaries were refugees drawn from Nigeria, Niger, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia.
The UNICORE (University Corridors for Refugees) scholarship is intended to provide study opportunities for African refugees in European universities, provided that they meet a certain number of criteria. The final beneficiaries are picked on merit, by committees picked by the respective universities concerned.
Despite being shown the doors to a better life and a future of hope, the young Nigerian remains rooted in heart to where he started. “When I finish, I must come back and help young [refugees],” he says.
Thanuwa’s story serves as an inspiration for millions of refugees and displaced persons on the African continent who seek for survival daily, and dream of making their homes a better place someday.