Empowering Female Entrepreneurs in Ukraine – Lviv Business School

Walnut Bakery

Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, Ukraine, launched a programme aimed at providing skills to female entrepreneurs. Their aim is to  develop new, or further develop existing female-led businesses across the country. I spoke with Svitlana Kyrylchuk who works at the Business School about this programme and the impact it has already had in the country. 

 

Why did you decide to start a Women’s Leadership Programme?

Ukrainian women own 22-23% of small and medium-sized enterprises and only 2% of big ones. As involving of women is fundamental for democratic government, it is important that these numbers increase. This means empowering more women to be able to start and grow their businesses. We believe that we can have a significant impact in increasing these numbers through educational programmes and public discussions on the topic of women’s leadership here in the Ukraine.

What is the Women’s Leadership Programme?

Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) and the Center for Leadership of UCU have developed an educational programme called «Women’s Leadership and Change Management». The programme is aimed at women-leaders from business, public and non-profitable sectors. This variety of students creates a special dynamics and synergy within one group and also establishes partnerships between different sectors.

The programme is based on the concept «Leadership based on character» that was developed by several researchers in Canada from Ivey Business School. According to this concept, leadership involves a character that is made up of 11 virtues and competencies. This can be divided into four categories: organizational, human, strategic, and business competencies, as well as commitment. The participants use this model to analyze their actions and behavior in order to develop their values and virtues.

The programme is practice-oriented and we focus on using case studies to teach the students. We believe that only through studying real examples can participations start to understand the role of a leader’s values to the utmost. The programme also includes several case studies from Ukrainian leadership research that has been undertaken by the Center for Leadership here which help students to understand the peculiarities of Ukrainian leadership and compare it to the leadership in other countries. For instance, according to this research, Ukrainian leaders mostly underestimate virtues such as accountability and humility, so in this programme much attention is focused on their study and analysis.

What do you hope to achieve through the programme? What have you achieved so far?

Throughout the programme we cover a range of topics including but not limited to character development, personal branding, networking and negotiating. The focus is on building the different competencies that are essential for a true leader. Since 2016 we have held 6 Women Leadership programmes that have involved 200 participants from across the country. In November last year the programme won the award of top 3 new management programmes at a Management executive and Professional Development conference in the US which we are very proud of.

What have been some of the challenges?

We didn’t have any difficulties with the program. The challenges are more focused on the difficulties for business women in Ukraine in general and what impact we can have on changing that. For example, recent research from the Center for Leadership of UCU looked at the differences of emotional intellect between men and women entrepreneurs. Preliminary results show that the differences in emotional intellect between men and women are minor. In particular, this is true when it comes to traits such as vocation, self-effectiveness and persistency. Despite this, Ukrainian women are seen as being less able to start and succeed in business than men. This is something we are hoping to change.

What have been some of the successes?

Among the program’s graduates there are successful women-entrepreneurs, administrators and leaders of social projects and non-governmental organizations. Some of our alumni include the founder of a social enterprise that recycles flowers from ceremonial events and uses the proceeds to finance charity projects called «Flowery Happiness». Another is the Chief Operating Officer of «Teple Misto», an innovative platform for creating opportunities and social transformations in Ivano-Frankivsk city. Other alumni have prominent roles at Transparency International, in national government and at the National Bank of Ukraine. One of the brightest, most active and determined participants of the program is Maryana Petrash, who is one of the co-founders of the initiative «Woman for Woman». This is a social project founded in 2017 to support and revive «The Walnut House» (Center of Integral Care for Women in Crisis). The project aims to raise money to restore the building in Lviv where the center for women has to be located and drawing more attention to its activities.

What’s next for the initiative?

As the program is in big demand, especially in Ukrainian context, we continue holding it twice a year.

What about female leadership in Lviv? What kinds of initiatives does your business school have and what is the state of women leadership within the School?

Sophia Opatska, the Founding Dean of Lviv Business School of Ukrainian Catholic University, is now UCU’s Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs. In the ten years since its founding, Lviv Business School, under the leadership of Sophia, has developed from a small start-up company to a truly successful institution with European values which is educating a responsible business community within Ukraine. Starting with only one program, the Key Executive MBA, in 2008, we have now developed to 4 master programs (Key Executive MBA, MSc in Technology Management, MA in Human Resources and Organization Development and MSc in Innovations) and up to 20 open-enrollment programs of Executive Innovation run every year in different cities of Ukraine. Much has been achieved so far and even more is to be done, but this time led by a new CEO, who is also a woman.

Preparing SDG Leaders through an Multidisciplinary Masters – University of Pretoria

Africa needs development practitioners in government, business and civil society who understand the complexity of development challenges and who have the leadership capacities to design and implement the integrated and multidisciplinary Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In response to this, the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria in South Africa created the Master’s in Development Practice. Willem Fourie, the coordinator of this programme as well as the SDG Hub featured a few weeks ago on PRiMEtime, shared more details on this interdisciplinary programme and the impact they hope to have across the continent.

Introduce your new Degree programme and why it is unique.

We’re glad to be able to launch Africa’s first interdisciplinary postgraduate degree on the implementation of the SDGs. The Master’s in Development Practice at the University of Pretoria (MDP@UP) will equip participants with the leadership skills and interdisciplinary competence that should assist with realising the SDGs in their respective contexts.

Why have it?

Most universities’ postgraduate degrees focus on specialisation in one field. In the SDG era we also need degrees that broaden students understanding of a number of fields. The MDP@UP wants to equip participants with the foundational knowledge in health sciences, social sciences, management sciences and environmental sciences, coupled with the appropriate leadership skills.

The Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria hosts the national SDG Hub – a resource aimed at strengthening evidence-informed policy making around the SDGs. We realised the need to also build the appropriate capacity by means of postgraduate education, which is why we have developed the degree.

How is the degree organized?

We focus on participants already in full-time employment, and to this end we’re using a rather innovative flipped-classroom approach. Participants will be exposed to theory by means of online learning experiences, facilitated by our expert faculty. This will form the basis for engagement with experts and fellow participants and immersion in real-life developmental challenges during high-intensity contact weeks. Their research project will centre on identifying, describing and interpreting a complex and interdisciplinary developmental challenge in their work environment.

Our expert academic faculty members are from a range of academic departments at the university. Experts from the private sector, multilateral organisations, governments and civil society will also participate in the sessions during the contact weeks.

Explain more about the interdisciplinary nature of the programme and how that is being facilitated.

Participants will be exposed to foundational theory in health sciences, social sciences, management sciences and environmental sciences. This will form the basis for both their leadership service learning course, as well as the case study write-up. The integration of different disciplines will be facilitated especially by two elements of the programme: immersion and assessment. Immersion refers to participants’ exposure to real life examples of development practice. They will be enabled to reflect on the relevance of a wide variety of disciplines in each of the immersion experiences. And during their assessment, participants – both individually and in groups – will be challenged to design multidisciplinary solutions.

What have been the challenges of organising an interdisciplinary programme on the SDGs? Successes so far?

This programme of course challenges the conventional ways in which we organise universities. But we were fortunate to get the support of our Executive and fantastic faculty members quite early on.

Who is the programme aimed at?

We’re interested in participants who hail from Africa and who have been working for at least five years.

Any tips for other schools interested in doing something similar?

Only one thing: give it a try, and persevere!

Resources on the SDGs – Part 2 of 2

As we enter year 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (which are set to be reached by 2030), organisations have had the time to do further research and publish findings relating to specific targets within each goal, shedding more light on the challenges and opportunities relating to each one. However the number of reports being launched daily can be a bit overwhelming, especially given that a lot of it is useful and interesting. Last week in Part 1 of this post I shared several reports focused on the SDGs. Here I have provided some websites with further resources on the SDGs.

World Bank SDG Atlas 2018

The Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals 2018 presents maps, charts, and stories related to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It discusses trends, comparisons, and measurement issues using accessible and shareable data visualizations. The data draw on the World Development Indicators  the World Bank’s compilation of internationally comparable statistics about global development and the quality of people’s lives. For each of the SDGs, relevant indicators have been chosen to illustrate important ideas.

 

Informea

InforMEA provides easy access to information on MEAs. You can consult treaty texts and provisions of decisions and resolutions adopted by the Governing Bodies of MEAs. You may browse Party information including contacts, national reports and national plans submitted under MEAs. Feel free to learn of terms and concepts as defined in the context of MEAs and consider taking one of over 20 free online courses introducing MEAs.

 

IISD Reporting Service

IISD Reporting Service provides neutral, autorative and up to the minute record of ongoing multilateral negoations on environment and sustainable development. You can access the meeting reports on their website or sign up to receive updates via email for a range of specific topics or on the Sustainable Development Goals more generally. Current coverage focuses on the Internatioanl Seabed Authority, High-Level Political Forum and the Open-Ended Working Group of the Parities to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. IISD has been providing this coverage since 2003.

 

Data is Beautiful

Data is Beautiful is a reddit page where individuals post visual representations of data including graphs, charts and maps. The goal is to explore how to effectively convey information and although aesthetics are important part of information visualization, the aim is not to create pretty pictures necessarily. Every month the community is invited to take part in a particular challenge where they are given a dataset to work with.

 

Our World in Data

Another website that aims to engage users in data is Our World in Data. Our World in Data is an online publication that shows how living conditions are changing. The aim is to give a global overview and to show changes over the very long run, so that we can see where we are coming from and where we are today. We need to understand why living conditions improved so that we can seek more of what works. The site has a newly launched SDG Tracker that tracks the latest data across all of the 17 SDGs. This serves an interactive hub where users can explore and track progress across all of the SDG indicators for which there is data available.

Also don’t forget about PRME Signatories developing databases of resources around the SDGs including the SDG Hub in South Africa at the University of Pretoria and the Online Resources Collection Around PRME from Sobey School of Business in Canada.

Recent Resources on the SDGs – Part 1 of 2

As we enter year 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (which are set to be reached by 2030), organisations have had the time to do further research and publish findings relating to specific targets within each goal, shedding more light on the challenges and opportunities relating to each one. However the number of reports being launched daily can be a bit overwhelming, especially given that a lot of it is useful and interesting. In the next two posts I will share several of the reports that I have found strong lately as well as some websites with further resources on the SDGs.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2017

Using the most recent data available, the annual Sustainable Development Goals Report provides an overview of the world’s implementation efforts to date, highlighting areas of progress and areas where more action needs to be taken to ensure no one is left behind. This year’s report finds that while progress has been made over the past decade across all areas of development, the pace of progress has been insufficient and advancements have been uneven to fully meet the implementation of the SDGs. The 2018 version of the report should be coming out shortly. It is a quick read (there is even an executive summary that provides an even quicker read) but it gives a good overview of the issues.

 

A Guide to Sustainable Development Goals Interactions from Science to Implementation:

This guide published by the International Council for Science, one of the coordinating bodies of the Science and Technology major group, explores the nature of interlinkages between the SDGs. It is based on the premise that a science-informed analysis of interactions across SDG domains – which is currently lacking – can support more coherent and effective decision making, and better facilitate follow-up and monitoring of progress. Understanding possible trade-offs as well as synergistic relations between the different SDGs is crucial for achieving long-lasting sustainable development outcomes.

 

 

Sustainable Cities: Tracking Progress Towards Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements – SDG 11 Synthesis Report:

This synthesis report is the first publication showing the progress, challenges and opportunities of global monitoring of SDG 11 which is focused on Sustainable Cities and Communities. The report was developed under the coordination of UN-Habitat, a focal point for sustainable urbanization and human settlements, but represents a joint position from the UN family on the global urban status of the Goal and other urban related global agendas such as the New Urban Agenda, Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework etc. It also looks at the linkages between SDG 11 and others targets.

 

Youth Solutions Report: 

The Youth Solutions Report features 50 game-changing projects led by young people, allowing them to showcase their work, and presenting them with opportunities to draw interest from potential supporters. This is the second report published by Sustainable Development Solutions Network Youth, the last Youth Solution Report was published in 2017. However this one also has a section with key recommendations for policies and action to support young people in particular in relation to entrepreneurship, intrapraneurship and finding jobs.

 

Frontier 2017 Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern: 

Published by the UNEP on an annual basis, this report addresses a range of emerging issues  facing the planet. It asks questions such as: How does our careless disposal of antimicrobial drugs produce bacteria that can resist them? Why are Marine Protected Areas vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals? Can off-grid solar plug the energy gap for cities in the developing world?

 

Fast-Rorward Progress, Leveraging Tech to Achieve the Global Goals

This report, published by the International Telecommunication Union, was written as a collaborative effort between 29 UN programmes as well as a number of NGOs This excellent report (one of my favourites) offers insights into the risks and opportunities in using information and Communication Technologies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.It is organised around each of the 17 SDGs and outlines how the use of big data is improving the design of policy and decision-making, the difference a mobile phone can make in the lives of humans and has a range of links to interesting initiatives around the globe.

 

Transformations to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

The World in 2050 (TWI2050) is a global multi-year, multi-stakeholder, interdisciplinary research initiative designed to provide a science-based, integrative approach to address all 17 SDGs. The new report brings together the work of more than 60 authors from 20 organizations involved in the initiative. The report explores six transformations and pathways that take a comprehensive approach to attaining the 17 SDGs. O
ne of the novel and defining features of the TWI2050 report is that it links integrated assessment modeling, with social science concepts to better reflect societal dynamics in the six transformations. After all, it is humans, and therefore society, who will make the economic, political, technological and cultural choices that determine the outcomes.

Influencing SDG Policy in South Africa and Beyond – the SDG Hub at the University of Pretoria

The South African SDG Hub is online platform that aims to connect South African policy makers with the reearch and innovation they need to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Given the breadth of the SDGs, and the key role that policy makers have in creating an enabling enviornment for them to be reached, giving these policy makers accesses to up to date research that could influence this policy is cruicial. I spoke with Willem Fourie, co-ordinator of the project and Associate Professor at the University of Pretoria’s Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership about the impact that the Hub is already having.

Introduce the SDG Hub

The South African SDG Hub is a collection of online and face-to-face platforms aimed at linking African policy makers with the most relevant and impactful research and innovation needed to implement the SDGs. The Hub is hosted by the University of Pretoria’s Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, which is located in the Department of Business Management.

Why have it?

Policy makers across the world – and also in Africa – are looking for access to SDG-relevant research and innovation. And researchers and innovators want policy makers to use their work. But for some reason evidence-informed policy making (and policy implementation for that matter) remains an elusive ideal. The South African SDG Hub wants to do its bit in linking policy makers with the best and most relevant research and innovation.

How did it come about?

During the negotiations that led to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs I was involved in a number of processes in Africa aimed at increasing the effectiveness of development co-operation. My colleagues in the African Union indicated to me that improving access to African research and innovation could play a major role in making development more effective. This is how the seed for the Hub was planted. We were privileged to get the buy-in from government partners soon after launching the first rudimentary version of the Hub – so much so that the South African Minister in the Presidency actually launched the Hub for us.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work. 

The Hub has four work streams, namely knowledge sharing, policy advice, dialogue promotion and capacity building. Our key activities are, respectively, the online platform, a number of roundtables and SDG Bulletin, engagement with government departments and we’re launching a new interdisciplinary degree on SDG implementation.

Who else is involved and how?

Our first formal partnership was established with the national Department of Science and Technology. Our group of advisors are from all the major SDG implementing government departments, the United Nations and from development partners. The University of Pretoria is also playing a major role in enabling the activities of the Hub.

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

We’re really glad about the level of interest amongst government actors. I would say the main challenge is now including all other relevant researchers and innovators in South Africa. This requires a significant expansion of our activities, as the SDGs cover such a wide range of topics.

How does the Hub fit into other activities happenig at the School?

Towards the end of last year we decided to infuse our first years’ Business Management course with theory on the SDGs. We were forced to do this in an innovative fashion, as around 2 500 students are enrolled for this course. We decided on a flipped classroom approach, according to which students had to prepare by watching videos on themes related to the SDGs. The classes were devoted to panel discussions and interaction via mobile technologies. We were grateful that a number of prominent people from business, government and civil society were willing to participate in the panel discussion.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

It’s worth the effort – there are more than enough researchers and policy makers out there interested in bridging the gap between African research and innovation and policy making processes.

What’s next?

Well, at this point we’re hoping to solidify our activities in each of the work streams. I’m particularly excited about an Artificial Intelligence grant from Microsoft which will enable our team to develop deep learning technologies that might dramatically improve the online platform’s search functionality. We’re also quite excited about publishing our first SDG publication this year and hosting the first series of roundtables. In 2019 we’ll be welcoming our first cohort of students in the new degree programme, which is similarly exciting!

We’ve grown at a rate the even surprised the most optimistic team members. So we’re ready to expand and we’re engaging potential partners on this.

Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 2 of 2)

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world, over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers according to UNHCR. The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering individuals from this population through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. Last week I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia about the School’s CERTE programme, a bridge course to prepare students for university. In this second post, we look at another programme that provides small grants to refugee community based organisations and more specifically at the partnerships that the School has developed in this space.

How did your partnership with UNHCR Kuala Lumpur come about

The relationship between Monash University Malaysia School of Business (MUM-SOB) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began informally in 2015, when the UNHCR Representative to Malaysia, Richard Towle was invited to participate in a public forum held by the school during its community engagement week, titled ‘Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire:- Responding to the 21st Century Refugee Crisis’. Following this event, on Refugee Day 2016, I was invited by UNHCR to participate in an expert roundtable discussion on “Employing Refugees in Malaysia: A Win-Win for All”. In 2017, CERTE was organized as result of a collaboration between the School and T4R an NGO focused on education of refugees and has a standing relationship with UNHCR. As a result of this collaboration, a task force was set up here to look into possibilities of offering education to refugee students with advice from UNHCR, Kuala Lumpur. As trust and confidence between the entities grew, in 2018, T4R was granted the Refugee Social Protection Fund (SPF) Program by UNHCR, to be implemented in partnership with MUM-SOB

What is the SPF, how does it work and what kinds of projects are you funding

MUM-SOB PRME is collaborating to implement the Refugee SPF program initiated by UNHCR Kuala Lumpur. The UNHCR Kuala Lumpur introduced the Refugee SPF program in 2009. It operates as a fund for provision of small grants to refugee community based organizations (CBOs). 10 Refugee CBOs applied for the SPF grant from UNHCR, of which 7 CBOs will be successful.

The objective of this program is to further strengthen the capacity of 7 refugee CBOs and ensure adequate support for these community led projects to promote self-reliance within the refugee communities. The program also aims to improve livelihoods of some 200 vulnerable persons in the community especially women and youth. The program ends on 31st December 2018.

What is MUM-SOB role in the partnership?

Part of our role is to conduct workshops for the CBO leaders and provide mentors to guide them. The workshops provide key tools to help the CBOs meet their individual needs, while also providing a platform for collaborative work and team-building across CBOs. The first workshops focused on project management skills which included developing project goals/objectives and setting key indicators for impact, output & performance. The mentors and facilitators also provided guidance to the CBO representatives in their application of the Refugee SPF project fund. Three workshops are conducted with those CBOs who receive the funds.

Each CBO is paired with a PRME mentor, who are academics from various disciplines within the School of Business. Each mentor will support their CBO representative in implementing the tools and resources introduced during the workshops. The mentors will also make site visits to oversee the progress of the implementation of the tools and resources and help to identify and address questions and challenges as they arise. During this project, the mentors are expected to:

  1. Attend a Mentor Workshop to be organized by MUM-SOB PRME.
  2. Attend all Workshops organized for the CBO representatives by MUM-SOB PRME.
  3. Conduct 3 site visits (one visit after each workshop) to the CBOs assigned to oversee and evaluate implementation of the workshop tools & skills.
  4. Provide guidance, support and regular communication with the assigned CBO representatives.
  5. Prepare and submit 2 reports, namely the Mid-Progress Report and the Final Report at the end of the project.

Why is this collaboration important in your view?

Firstly, a collaboration like this between UNHCR, T4R and MUM-SOB, builds partnerships and helps bridge the gap between educational institutions, industry and community. It enables us to reach, empower and make a real difference to vulnerable communities directly, thereby creating impact on society. To quote an old Sudanese saying, one hand cannot clap. Coordinating these types of initiatives can be challenging. One way to address such a challenge is to focus on partnerships, not just among international actors, but more importantly, between international and local partners. Emphasis on such partnerships can create opportunities to combine skills, expertise and resources that more effectively empower vulnerable communities.

Secondly, the workshops serve several purposes. They not only provide key tools to help the CBOs meet their individual community needs, but also function as a platform for collaborative work and team-building across CBOs. This is evident from the feedback received from the first workshop as it became clear that these refugee community representatives were pleased to be acquainted with each other. It provided them a sense of community support and gave them the opportunity to work together on future projects.

Thirdly, by creating a mentoring program, the refugee mentees benefit a great deal to make their community self-sufficient and independent. Throughout the program, they are taught and guided by the MUM-SOB academics and experts to develop their own skills, strategies and capability so that they are enabled to tackle the next hurdle more effectively. It also opens doors for partnerships between refugee communities and local NGOs and social enterprises through networks the mentors are a part of.

What are your tips for schools looking to partner with local or international organisations?

We think that there are various ways a School can partner with a UN organization locally. Reaching out and visiting these UN bodies locally may be the starting point. For instance, we recently visited the UN Global Compact (UNGC) office in Malaysia and invited its  director to present on UNGC activities in Malaysia to the School’s management team. In addition, UN bodies are invited by our School to participate or adjudicate student competitions. For UN bodies like UNHCR, we have invited them to set up booths during student-led bazaars to sell items made by refugees to raise funds. In our experience, these initiatives open  avenues for collaboration relating to multidisciplinary research, education, student engagement and others, thus building relationships of trust and confidence for future partnerships.

Is this partnership also opening up opportunities in research and in the classroom?

We are exploring opportunities that may arise in research, education and partnerships. At the end of this project, the data collected may be used by MUM-SOB for research and publication from a multi-disciplinary perspective. This project may also be utilized for education purposes in the classroom, through student activities and a component on sustainability, demonstrating the importance of collaboration between educational institutional institutions, NGOs and UN bodies in empowering and bringing impact to vulnerable communities. It may also translate into social enterprises involving Malaysians and the refugee communities.

Challenges?

Communication with the refugee mentees has not always been easy. As they are extremely caught up in trying to make a basic living, engaging with them can be an uphill task. Due to their difficult situation in trying to make basic ends meet, an initiative like this may be overwhelming. In such a predicament, it is up to the collaborative partners to be aware of this problem and press on, sensitively to help them.

Next steps?

We hope that this initiative will inspire students and staff to engage in more impactful measures surrounding the 17 sustainable development goals and make efforts to partner with UN bodies and NGOs to successfully impact society and communities. The collaboration between T4R and UNHCR further promises a positive future working relationship to realize other sustainability initiatives for the community and society.

Empowering Refugees through training and funding – Monash University Malaysia (Part 1 of 2)

The School of Business at Monash University Malaysia has been actively engaged for several years now in programmes aimed at assisting and empowering Refugees through capacity building, funding and partnerships with multiple organisations. In this two part post, I spoke with Priya Sharma, Coordinator and PRME Ambassador at Monash University Malaysia to look first at the School’s programmes to educate refugees and in the second more about a fund to support refugee community-based organisations, both in collaboration with multiple partners including the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Malaysia.

Provide some background about the urban refugee population in Malaysia

Malaysia is home to one of the largest urban refugee populations. According to the latest UNHCR statistics, Malaysia hosts over 150,000 refugees and asylum seekers. Most of them (90%) are from Myanmar, and the others are from diverse countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan or Sri Lanka. Urban settings pose a host of real and difficult challenges for refugees, in particular refugee children. In Malaysia especially, refugee children and youth do not have access to institutionalized schools and thus obtain education via an informal parallel system of community-based learning centres.

What is CERTE and how it came about?

CERTE stands for Connecting and Equipping Refugees For Tertiary Education. It is a task force that aims to support young adult refugees in accessing tertiary education opportunities through knowledge and resource sharing, a bridge course, school readiness preparation, and mentorship. The task force is supported by Open Universities for Refugees (OUR) and UNHCR Malaysia and Teach for Refugees (T4R). It’s mission is to provide quality education to refugees globally and international universities in Malaysia. CERTE Malaysia was established during the OUR-UNHCR 3 C Forum-5/6 -August 2016- in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is led by Jessica Chapman, Managing Director of T4R and Dr. Robin Duncan from OUR. The 2nd session for 2018 will be held at Monash University Malaysia in October and is supported by the PRME team in the School of Business.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The aim of CERTE is to identify refugees who can demonstrate the motivation and academic potential to access further education and to equip and empower them to gain a place at university or college. The course is run over 3 weeks, during weekdays so that the refugee students are exposed to university campus life. Through this course, students are equipped with the basic knowledge of the application process of higher education institutes; have a better understanding of areas of knowledge and different academic disciplines; develop basic research skills in writing and presentations. On the last day, a graduation ceremony is held and a certificate of completion is awarded to the students by Richard Towle, UNHCR’s country representative in Malaysia. This certificate not only endorses their participation but also serves as a unique stepping stone to future learning opportunities in Malaysia or elsewhere. In addition, students who successfully complete the course are given the opportunity to sign-up for a continued mentorship program that will provide continued support in their university application process.

Who are the students?

Fifteen refugee youth from different refugee communities across Kuala Lumpur are selected through an interview process. They are Rohingyas, Sudanese, Yemenis, Pakistanis, and Middle Easterns. They have completed their IGCSC or certain level of academic qualification from their home country but had to leave their country in a haste. Their education is abruptly halted and are unable to continue in Malaysia due to their status. Since this program, the students have taken part in other initiatives to improve their education, like online learning and education-focused projects initiated by T4R.

What have been some of the challenges? 

One of the major challenges is that the CERTE bridge course does not guarantee admission into universities. In addition, due to conditions by which the refugees leave their country, most often they do not possess the necessary documentation needed for access to education, informal or otherwise. One suggestion is to perhaps seek the assistance and collaboration of respective embassies to find ways to overcome this issue.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

We think this is an important initiative. Having other institutions take on similar initiatives will have a strong impact on the community. It takes education to another level by engaging with a vulnerable sector of the community and offering it to children and youth. This is crucial as refugee children and youth most often have their education disrupted. A lack of education can disempower those who need an opportunity the most and can lead to extreme poverty for generations. Education is often a lifesaving intervention that offers protection and preserves their futures. Although a temporary predicament, providing education through workshops and trainings like these instill a positive attitude, gives them hope and prepares them for future opportunities. It is therefore crucial to supply them with information that will allow them to explore the world and use the full capacity of their brains while maintaining their interest and enthusiasm.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are continuing with this initiative for the next batch of refugee students and youth. Meanwhile, this initiative has also sparked a conversation and discussion within the senior management of the University on access to education through various platforms and scholarships. A working committee has been established to discuss ways of achieving this and overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced.

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