A Pilot Programme in Kenya Help Refugees go to University

Pilot Programme

Kenya hosts about 150,000 refugees, making it one of the largest refugee populations in the world. These refugees are victims of severe environmental and socioeconomic conditions; conditions that have made their respective homes inhabitable to them. The Kalobeyei settlement and Kakuma Refugee Camp has become a home to most of these unfortunate people. Many of the refugees at the Kalobeyei settlement and Kakuma Refugee Camp has been reported to have lived in these facilities for almost two decades. There have been provisions made for the victims, which include opportunities for primary and secondary education, as well as other basic needs. Due to these unpleasant occurrences, children and youths are left with no option but to embrace the educational opportunities presented to them on foreign land.

Educational Challenges Faced by Refugees

Provision of education to these communities is considered a long-term developmental effort and a critical factor in humanitarian aid. As much as they are refugees, they are also humans with dreams and need for education. The United Nations Refugee Agency has collaborated with the host government of Kenya and other organizations to help provide these needs to these victims. This is a window for them to achieve their dreams of acquiring knowledge and having sound western education. Since the onset of this programme, the number of children accessing pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools has increased significantly.

However, higher education has always been a challenge because of their restricted movements around the host country. It has been reported that only 1% of the refugees ever made it to institutions of higher learning. This negligible proportion of the refugee population has been known to pursue their academic endeavors through scholarship programs which are only available at the institutions. Although these scholarship programs are beneficial in helping these victims achieve their academic successes, the opportunities are limited and fiercely competitive. The conditions for consideration for those scholarship programs are often against the category candidates who are trained in foreign secondary schools, of which most of these refugees belong. Notwithstanding that their movements are restricted, so are their access to valuable information. This leaves many young persons with little or no opportunities to explore their academic potentials in a formal higher institution of learning.

Provided Solutions to Educational Challenges for Refugees

The sad story about the challenges faced by these victims is that it does not only affect the refugees but also habitats of neighboring communities who are unable to pull through the competitive scholarship programs.

The Burgeoning University Hub in Kakuma Refugee Camp is a cost-sharing program which subsidizes the cost of higher education for these refugees and their surrounding neighbors. This solution does not take away the entire cost of higher education from the victims; instead, it subsidizes the cost to ensure that they are low enough for the refugees to afford.

A group of 26 refugees pioneered this pilot cost-sharing program, which, in turn, has presented the opportunity for most of the refugees to work as teachers and social workers, grabbing every opportunity that is given by the United Nations and its collaborating bodies.

Because of the lack of employment opportunities and low economic engagement of these refugees and their surrounding neighbors, they may as well be unable to generate substantial income to pay educational fees even after its subsidy. Also, this program does not offer these chances to candidates that are advanced in age and are trained in a non-Kenyan secondary educational system. There are rising hopes that these economic challenges faced by refugees will be addressed in no time.

The Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST), a Kenyan public university, built a satellite campus on the outskirts of Kakuma Refugee Camp in 2015 as a way of bringing higher education closer to the refugees. This effort from the esteemed Kenyan university has offered educational opportunities to the entire Kakuma surrounding with over 460 students enrolled in various programs. A significant proportion of these students were reported to be refugees.

This pilot cost-sharing program was created with the primary objective of solving the problem faced by most candidates about fees payment. To achieve this, the program was designed in a way that the students (and their families) would only pay 40% of the student’s tuition fee while the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the University Waives provide 40% and 20% of the tuition fees respectively.

Bottom Line

The pilot cost-sharing program has offered valuable lessons about the need for innovation in a low-resource context. Although access to University education is much improved for refugees, there is a need for financial support as well. Endless opportunity streams could present themselves as the region gain attention from interesting bodies across the globe.


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