Shomporko Online News Desk: Three Olympic athletes from South Sudan will attend a Canadian college this fall as part of a program that allows students who have been displaced by conflict to achieve their academic objectives.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Rose Nathike Likonyen, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, and James Nyang Chiengjiek are members of the Refugee Olympic Team.
They’ll be the first students in a new athletic stream of the Student Refugee Program, which sees post-secondary schools privately support refugees. They’ll be attending Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.
“They’ve earned the opportunity to rebuild their lives and to chart their journey forward to success and we’re just so proud to play a part in that,” Janet Morrison, Sheridan’s president, said in an interview.
All three athletes fled conflict in South Sudan as children and grew up in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where they still live.
Likonyen and Chiengjiek competed in the 800-meter races at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as part of the Refugee Olympic Team while Lokoro competed in the 1,500-metre race at those Games.
Sheridan is working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Olympic Committee, and the World University Service of Canada — a non-profit that manages the Student Refugee Program — to bring the athletes to Ontario.
The trio will begin their first year in Sheridan’s academic upgrading stream, which focuses on literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking, but then they could choose different options to pursue based on their own interests and career aspirations, Morrison said.
The college will be supporting the athletes with academic advising, physical and mental health resources, and housing support, among other things.
“There’s a lot of research on how to position students for success, all kinds of different students from all kinds of backgrounds and lived experiences. What we know is that central to that is a sense of purpose, which I think, no doubt these three learners have,” she said.
“They’ve had a lived experience with conflict and persecution so we’ll provide them with access to resources to help rebuild their lives here.”
The World University Service of Canada said the three athletes could help raise awareness on the need to support more refugees.
“What Rose Nathike, Paulo Amotun, and James Nyang will remind the world on the Olympic stage in Tokyo, is that we have a collective responsibility to uphold the rights and help realize the potential of millions of refugees around the world,” executive director Chris Eaton said in a statement.
Other countries should fund refugees in the same way, according to the UNHCR.
While the resettlement of refugee student-athletes is new, Canadian universities and colleges have a long history of sponsoring refugees to relocate and pursue post-secondary education at their institutions, according to UNHCR’s senior resettlement officer in Canada, Michael Casasola.
“It is a model that UNHCR has been asking other nations to adopt so that more refugees can acquire post-secondary education and a long-term solution,” says the UNHCR.
Source_ The Canadian Press