Helping Bhutanese refugees in Nepal

The Bhutanese Refugee Education Program provides education and vocational skills to Bhutanese students living in refugee camps, Nepal.

Bhutanese refugee schoolchildren in Nepal

About the program

While many refugees around the world have to flee their countries due to conflict and violence, the ethnic Nepalis (Lhotshampas) from Bhutan were forced to leave as a result of nationalist ‘ethnic cleansing’ policies in the 1980-1990s. Over 134,000 Bhutanese citizens became refugees (approximately 20 percent of Bhutan’s total population). In 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) began an extensive resettlement program for the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal. 

Though the majority of refugees have been resettled, as at March 2014, over 30,000 refugees remain in Nepal.

A Bhutanese refugee child

The Bhutanese Refugee Education Program works in two United Nations (UN) camps in Eastern Nepal, providing secondary education that has been formalised by the Ministry of Education. The program is considered by the UN to be one of the better refugee education programs in the world.

Refugees from the camp volunteer to take part in the program as teachers, head teachers, and non-teaching staff. The program has a particular focus on encouraging female enrolment, and as a result the ratio of female representation in secondary classes is increasing every year.

Education is a vital transportable resource for Bhutanese refugees. The program aims to enable refugee students to gain an education that is recognised in their country of resettlement. Refugees have found that the program has given them a degree of self-reliance and allowed them to continue studying in the countries in which they have resettled.

Program details

  • Issues/Focus areas: Refugees
  • Partner Agency: Caritas Nepal
  • Funding in 2017/18 financial year: AU $30,000
  • Geographic location: Seven UNHCR-administered camps in Eastern Nepal
  • When established: 1992