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Refugee given tuition waiver by Canadian school

A refugee fleeing his native Somalia after he became the target of a terrorist group had his tuition fees waived by a private English language school in Winnipeg. Speaking to The PIE, he said he hoped English proficiency would help him step up his activism now that he is safe in Canada.

Kanshi now lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Photo: Bob Lindsell

The Somali community in Fargo advised him against seeking asylum in the US

He was forced to flee after his human rights advocacy led to threats against his life.

“Every person in Canada has the right to travel, to freedom of speech – but others don’t”

Kanshi* walked into Heartland International English School in Winnipeg shortly after arriving in Canada, which he reached by crossing the US border on foot.

“One of the first things I did when I got to Canada was looking for English language schools. I googled Heartland International English School, I saw the fee was quite high and it wasn’t possible for me, but at the same time I wanted to improve my English,” he told The PIE.

“So I visited the school, and I told them my story – and that I didn’t have money to pay for the fees, because I am also sending money back home.”

Kanshi explained he wanted to improve his English to continue advocating for human rights and help people in his country, from his newfound safety in Canada.

“I want to improve my human rights advocacy, I want to learn more about human rights in the world. Every person in some countries, such as Canada, have the right to travel, to freedom of speech – but others don’t,” he explained.

“My organisation sent me a letter saying ‘please don’t quit the job now, because you can advocate for us outside of the country, now that you have a safe place’,” he said.

In Somalia, Kanshi was part of an organisation advocating for human rights, visiting various countries around the world for conferences and advocacy.

About two years ago, he relayed, a terrorist group stepped up attacks against him.

When his personal assistant was killed and his house attacked, he decided to not return home after a trip abroad to the US. But the Somali community in Fargo advised him against seeking asylum in the US, he explained.

Instead, he decided to cross the border into Canada.

“People told me that if I made an asylum claim in [the US] it is possible for Trump to send me back to my country. The Somali community told me that I had a chance to ask for an asylum in Canada, so I walked across the border,” he said.

“It was February. At that time, it’s cold. In Somalia it’s never cold, it was the first time I saw snow. At night I felt ‘this time, it’s my last time’.”

There were other asylum seekers crossing the border, he recounted, and they were rescued by the Canadian police.

Kanshi has now been granted asylum by the Canadian government, and is organising for his family, who he hasn’t seen for two years, to join him in Canada.

“You hear about tragic refugee stories, but it’s different when the person who lived it recounts the horrors,” president of Heartland, Gary Gervais, told The PIE.

“Despite all his seemingly insurmountable challenges, Kanshi remains determined to help the people of his country.  His story is so compelling that you can’t help but want to do something for him – we hope that the little bit we did helps him on his journey.”

The PIE was at the IIE PEER Global Forum last week to hear the latest sector discussions on emergency education for displaced people.

*Not his real name. Other details have been changed to protect Kanshi’s identity.

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