Young Togolese refugee youth leader advocates for quality education in Ghana

Louange Koffi achieved her childhood dream of becoming a nurse in Ghana. She now advocates for quality health and education for the displaced.

By Omer Elnaiem in Accra, Ghana

First published December 19, 2023 by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Louange Koffi, 27, achieved her childhood dream of becoming a nurse after getting a DAFI scholarship to study nursing. © UNHCR/Walter Kigali

Growing up in a remote refugee camp in western Ghana, Louange Koffi vividly recalls how people in her community struggled to access basic health services.

One particular incident that took place when she was 14 years old stands out in her memory.

“I was in my room around midnight, and I had a knock on my window,” she said. “And it was a lady, a family friend …. I could see she was in pain. This woman called my mom to step out. Before we could step out, she had given birth behind my window.”

The nearest health facility in the camp was nearly an hour’s walk from where Louange lived. It was this encounter that motivated her to work hard in school so she could pursue a career in medicine and help other refugees. It meant walking for two hours every day to reach the only high school in the camp.

“It wasn’t an easy journey…It was a rough road, but we still walked because we were determined to make our lives better, have an education, and an impact on our fellow refugees in the world,” she said.

Louange’s parents fled the conflict in Togo in the early 1990s to seek safety in Klikor refugee camp in Ghana’s Volta region, where she was born. They later moved to the camp in western Ghana where Louange grew up mixing with refugees from various countries, with diverse backgrounds.

Her dedication to learning and resolve to succeed paid off and she passed her high school examination with flying colours. Her parents had no money to help her continue her education but in 2016 she won a full scholarship to study for a nursing degree in the capital, Accra.

For more than 30 years, the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI) scholarship has transformed the lives of tens of thousands of refugee students like Louange, providing them with opportunities to fulfill their potential.

“I was given the chance, I was given the opportunity to have access to quality education,” she said. “And here I am today, helping to save lives. [Having] an impact on my community.”

Nursing license

More than half of the world’s nearly 15 million school-aged refugee children remain out of formal education. Louange advocates for displaced children to be given a chance to unlock their potential. She underscores the need to not only get more of them enrolled in schools, but also to ensure they receive quality education.

In 2021, after obtaining her nursing license, she completed a one-year mandatory national service by working in multiple health facilities in Accra. For the last three years, she has been using her nursing skills to volunteer with local organizations in the capital while she waits to be deployed to work full-time in one of the city’s public hospitals.

Louange uses her medical skills to volunteer with medical charities in Ghana’s capital, Accra. © UNHCR/Walter Kigali

Meanwhile, Louange leads various youth activities, including working with a group of DAFI scholars who carry out mobile clinics in the capital to provide health services to refugees and the urban poor, particularly women and girls.

“I’m so passionate about quality education and quality health …. and women and girls’ empowerment …because if we empower the girls, we are going to change the world.”

Message to the world

Through active engagements with policymakers and development organizations in Ghana, Louange spends most of her free time representing young people and the displaced in both local and international forums. She currently serves as a member of the Refugee Education Council, part of an international campaign led by the Government of Canada that aims to ensure the voices of the displaced are included in refugee education programming.

Louange Koffi addresses delegates at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva on 13 December. © UNHCR/Jose Cendon

She also works closely with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and partner organizations, to promote the inclusion of refugees in national health and education policies. To take her message of inclusion to the highest level, Louange travelled to Geneva last week to participate in the second Global Refugee Forum.

“The message I’m bringing to the world at the Global Refugee Forum is that refugees have the ability, we have the capacity, we have the skills,” she said before she left. “Give us the chance, give us quality education, give us access to quality health, and we’ll shock you.”

Additional reporting by Moulid Hujale in Nairobi, Kenya

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