Higher Education at the Margins
“You could be the CEO of your own tech company one day,” Remy says, speaking to a group of wide-eyed young women gathered around his single laptop.
Remy Gakwaya, a refugee from Burundi, is one of hundreds of community members to have benefitted from Higher Education at the Margins (HEM) in Dzaleka refugee camp, Malawi. HEM works in partnership with Regis University Colorado, supported by Jesuit Missions partner Jesuit Refugee Service South Africa (JRS SA).
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world yet hosts around 40, 000 refugees who mostly come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia. Dzaleka is a large refugee camp located about 50km from Malawi’s capital Lilongwe and was set up by the government more than 20 years ago in response to the surge of people fleeing genocide in Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.
While Remy received prior schooling in computer science before his arrival at Dzaleka, he explains that his course at HEM inspired his desire to pass his knowledge to fellow community members, and to build a teaching program into his established computer consulting and repair business. TakenoLAB, the community organization Remy founded, was named to encourage people to “take” the tech knowledge Remy had gained through his tertiary studies and help create better opportunities for their future.
Using his personal laptop, at the library or his home, Remy has conducted both basic computer skills training and advanced computer-programming courses with over 40 community students. In his computer programming courses, Remy works with his students to develop apps that provide technological solutions to community problems. Lately, his class has been working on a system to streamline the database registration of new arrivals in the camp, and a program to map out the labyrinth of NGOs, community organizations, restaurants, and businesses in the streets of Dzaleka.
In addition to his coding classes, Remy’s most recent endeavour is teaching a Girls’ Computer Club, which he founded to encourage women and girls to join in the technological revolution.
While Remy’s schedule is packed with teaching and various volunteer jobs, he always prioritizes his education. To his students, he says: “knowledge reduces limitations, and with education you can change your life.” Remy hopes that his students will be empowered to one day apply for HEM programs themselves.