Fostering Education Opportunities for asylum seekers in Southern Belize 

In Belize, 10 young asylum seekers had the opportunity to further their studies at a technical/vocational institution. 

The alarm jolts Joe* awake. It’s 4:00 am, and the 20-year-old asylum seeker gets up to get ready for school. He walks for twenty minutes on a quiet dirt road, grateful for the opportunity to experience peace in his new community. When he gets to the bus stop, his classmates are waiting for the bus that will get them to Stann Creek’s Institute for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (ITVET). It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour trip each day, but it’s a sacrifice that they are happy to make. 

Joe is one of 10 young adult asylum seekers in Belize who have been given the opportunity to go back to school after their high school studies were interrupted when they were suddenly forced to flee their homes because of violence.  

“We couldn’t stay there because it was totally unsafe,” Joe recalls. “When a threat like this arrives, the only thing that follows is death. It is something serious. It’s not easy. I was in my last year of high school, and I wasn’t able to finish because we just couldn’t survive in that place anymore.” 

Selena*, a 17-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras, couldn’t finish high school after a group of gang members burst into her family home and murdered her brother. Following this, both she and her other family members received numerous threats to their lives and fled to Belize in search of safety.  

“I feel very happy to have been able to go back to school” shares Selena. “I didn’t think I would be able to study anymore until I received this opportunity, and I am very grateful for it.” 

After a year of overcoming the challenges of learning in a new schooling system and in an unfamiliar language, the students are graduating with a technical diploma that is the equivalent of a high school degree.   

“For me, this should be an opportunity that all asylum seekers are able to receive in order to have a better future and to be able to find a good job,” says Selena. 

Close to half of the world’s refugee children – 48 percent – remain out of school. UNHCR in Belize, along with Government and local partners, works to ensure education is accessible for all children and young people, including asylum seekers. 

*All names have been changed to protect the asylum seeker students’ confidentiality