When an Arizona State University student saw firsthand the dire circumstances of African refugees in Israel, she knew that she could find an answer to the crisis at ASU.
Julia Jackman worked as an intern in Tel Aviv last summer, helping refugees from Eritrea and Sudan find ways to further their education — which is extremely difficult for them to do in Israel. So she asked ASU to help.
The result is that more than 50 refugees will begin taking online classes this week through Education for Humanity, ASU’s initiative to offer postsecondary courses to people affected by displacement around the world.
“I knew the goals of the university are to measure success by whom it includes, and I knew we had a robust online education platform,” Jackman said. “This has really highlighted for me that it takes a village.”
Education for Humanity, which is working with more than 2,000 learners in eight countries, has added the African Refugee Development Center in Israel as a partner, with online classes that launched July 12 to African refugees in Tel Aviv, according to Nicholas Sabato, director of country programs at Education for Humanity.
“We’re mobilizing a program launch during lockdown half a world away for refugees who have experienced a dearth of educational opportunities,” he said. “Our excitement can’t be understated.”
Jackman, who will be a senior this fall, is majoring in biochemistry and global health, with a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership. She became aware of refugee issues two years ago when she started volunteering with REACT, a partnership of students in Barrett, The Honors College and local nonprofits and medical providers that does health-care outreach to refugee communities in Maricopa County.
Last summer, Jackman went on a 10-day study abroad through the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s Global Intensive Experience in Israel and Palestine, then stayed in Tel Aviv to work as an intern with the African Refugee Development Center. There, she was a higher-education caseworker for 50 people who were refugees and asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea.
The work was difficult because education opportunities are very limited and expensive.
“Israel is very inhospitable to the refugees, calling them ‘infiltrators,’” Jackman said.
“I was working with people who had so many dreams and goals, just like I did, but they don’t have the finances to make it possible.”
So she decided to go to the top.
“I emailed President Crow, not really expecting a response, but asking for ways to offer ASU’s online presence to refugees,” she said. “To my surprise, he responded and put me in touch with Pamela DeLargy.”
DeLargy, executive director of Education for Humanity and senior adviser on international development initiatives in the Office of the President at ASU, has worked with refugees for more than 20 years, including with the United Nations in Ethiopia.
“Many of the refugees in Israel are victims of trafficking who were held in the Sinai Peninsula, and a lot had been tortured, or their relatives extorted for money,” said DeLargy, who is also a professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies.
“There was a lot of organ trafficking — taking of kidneys and things like that.”
Many who were released or escaped their traffickers crossed over into Israel, seeking safety. But the current government is not welcoming.
“When they first got there, many had jobs and lived freely but more recently they’re not allowed to work and there are camps where they have to stay,” DeLargy said.
“A lot of them are hungering for education and skills training because they won’t have a future in Israel. But they may be able to go someone else eventually, and getting certified in English will be helpful to them.”
Besides English language courses in collaboration with Global Launch, Education for Humanity offers classes in how to be a successful online learner, as well as Earned Admissions courses from EdPlus that can be transferred for credit.
Jackman said that those earned-admission courses are critical for the refugees she worked with.
“When they’re fleeing, a lot of people take the essentials but don’t think about taking documentation that they have completed high school or a transcript of their first few college classes,” she said.
“It can be extremely difficult to get those documents. They have no way to prove that they have completed secondary education, and getting a (general equivalency diploma) while also trying to work is a two-year-long process. Earned admission eliminates that barrier.”
Education for Humanity started offering courses three years ago, working closely with partners in the host countries, such as humanitarian agencies and ministries of education. The courses are cost-free for the refugees, thanks to support from a private donors, foundations and matching funds from ASU.
“It’s a testament to ASU that these types of opportunities can arise — a student-generated idea that President Crow endorses and links with our initiative to bring to fruition,” Sabato said.
Jackman was supposed to be traveling to Ethiopia, Israel, Jordan and Switzerland this summer, funded by a $10,000 Barrett Explorers Grant to research barriers to higher education for refugees.
“Obviously, that’s not happening,” she said. “But I’m able to take the time to work on this partnership, and I’m grateful for that.”
Jackman hopes to go to medical school, but first wants to attend graduate school to study global health in the context of humanitarian disasters.
“The internship had an intense impact on me and my goals and career aspirations, and I wanted to give something back to the community that could last longer than the time that I was in Israel,” she said.
Top image of Tel Aviv courtesy of Pixabay.
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