A Malawi based asylum seeker’s efforts to study in Germany
For some, access to education is not something to struggle for. They have a right to it. As an asylum seeker, this text explains the effort I have put in looking for an opportunity to further my studies.
What did you want to become when growing up? Doesn’t every child admire something so bad that they would wish to do when they mature? The right to education is every child’s primary want. I remember playing with childhood friends. Those are the luckiest days of my life that I can’t stop recalling. But now, I realize the ambiguity of these times. How would you feel knowing that what you thought was freedom actually wasn’t, that you were only a child doing what children normally do and you are not essentially free like everyone else? Not free to move as you wish, choose as you wish. You discover that there are certain dreams that cannot be achieved like attending higher education in your country of asylum. When your younger self starts giving up on that career you believed was going to change your life, where can one find hope and motivation?
Friendship is the best thing that can lead to so many other good things. Let me tell you a little story about my friend Daniel who is originally from Germany. In 2019 Daniel came to visit with friends in Dzaleka camp. We crossed paths with them and started sharing more about our backgrounds and ambitions.
My ambition this year is to complete my studies in social work and become the change I want for my family and my community through social work. I am a poet and the leader of a creative team in the camp, we did a couple of projects with Daniel including hosting the first ever photo exhibition in Malawi done by refugee photography in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.
So, in April 2021, Daniel sends me a scholarship link for the Hilde Domin Program. I figure that this is a unique opportunity I so much need. Together we dedicate ourselves to the application process and put together all the necessary documents.
I submit my application. Hopes are very high, with my parents praying for my success. I check almost every day to see if I had been emailed although I know the official results will come out in July. I am obsessed and desperate for this opportunity. I see my future next to my eye. All of sudden, I start dreaming again in colors. Getting a degree is my current education goal.
My dream career is social work. I registered at Regis University online, even did a diploma. But getting a full degree or a scholarship to pursue such a goal is almost impossible for me here in Malawi. Why? As an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo, studying at a local university is difficult. In Malawi, there are university programs that admit refugees in local universities. My case is different, I am still just an asylum seeker, I can only have access to such education when I am recognized by the government and issued a full refugee status. My friends have benefited from World University Service of Canada (WUSC). The Hilde Domin Scholarship is awarded to people who do not have access to these opportunities and I am an eligible candidate for it.
The month I have been waiting for so desperately finally arrived. Guess what, it is the moment I shed tears in disappointment. I am not considered qualified for the scholarship. My application could not be processed because it was incomplete. What did I miss? I do not have a passport and lack some language certificates. My friend Daniel is likewise disappointed, he followed up with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) multiple times on my behalf and he is told my case had been noticed and I should try in the next cohort.
It is that time of the year when everyone is busy on farms, except me. The only thing on my mind is working again on my application. This time around, I have managed to get a language certificate after taking a TOEFL test online. As an asylum seeker I cannot be given an immigrant travel document without a formal confirmation of my scholarship. Again I do send in my documents without a passport, except this time around the scholarship officials are aware of my situation. I am very excited to submit my application again, Daniel is too. It feels like unloading something from my head that I carried for so long. Of course, the overall application process was overwhelming as I worked day and night, so that I would not miss the deadline. It was already such an accomplishment to be able to turn in my application once again.
I know this by now: In order to get an university admission in Germany as an international student, one must have completed secondary school and studied at least for one year at a formal university or college in their country of origin, in my case: my country of asylum. I hold the Malawi school certificate of education (MSCE). The first admission requirement is intact. Well, the results this time are negative as well. It is because my online diploma could not get recognised as such in Germany. Digital education seems not yet equivalent there.
I have missed the scholarship for the second time. The only way I can be able to study in Germany is if I study at the University of Malawi for a year. What are the chances for me to get an admission at the University of Malawi as an asylum seeker? If I get granted the refugee status I have applied for in Malawi, I will definitely be able to study in Malawi. But only then.
I am stuck somewhere between studying in Malawi and getting awarded the Hilde Domin Scholarship in Germany. My choices are limited, I feel helpless. A lot of friends are advocating on my behalf by presenting my case with the university board to inquire an exception. If I get an admission at the University of Malawi, this will increase my chances to earn the scholarship. As a 26-year-old young man, all I want is to see my dreams come true. For others, it could be buying a house, a car or traveling the world, but mine is earning a university degree.
(Eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Beitrags findet sich hier.)