Back to school in the world's largest refugee camp

News Stories, 5 September 2011

© UNHCR/S.Perham
First day of school for Somali refugees at the new Ifo 2 Primary School in Dadaab, Kenya.

DADAAB, Kenya, September 5 (UNHCR) The new academic year got under way on Monday in the world's largest refugee camp complex, with some 43,000 Somali children turning up for classes at Dadaab in north-east Kenya.

Some, particularly those who have arrived in the last three months, are going to school for the first time. But enrolment rates among the estimated 156,000 children of school age are relatively low in Dadaab's camps, which have 19 primary schools and six secondary schools.

Many of those entering school were among the more than 100,000 Somali refugees who have arrived in Dadaab since June after fleeing conflict, drought and famine in their homeland, bringing the refugee population here close to 470,000.

"These children are in strong need of the routine and protection that school provides," said Linda Kjosaas, the UNHCR education officer in Dadaab. "Circumstances here are far from ideal and we should be providing them with much more, but children are happy and, talking to their parents, it is clear that they value education highly."

At the recently opened refugee site called Ifo 2, boys played football and girls skipped in the courtyard of a brand new primary school on Monday. "Most of these children have arrived this year from Somalia," said the headmaster, Mohammed Abdullahi Bashir. "We decided to open the school two weeks earlier to give them a chance to catch up."

So far, about 1,100 children have been enrolled at this school and 11 of the school's 24 classrooms have been filled. "Every day more children are enrolling," Bashir added.

Very few of the new arrivals received any formal education in Somalia. To help them cope, UNHCR's partner, CARE, recently began an accelerated learning programme to teach them basic literacy and numeracy skills. Some 1,500 children between the ages of five and 13 benefitted from this programme.

The schools at Dadaab follow the Kenyan education curriculum. There are also private and religious schools, adult literacy centres and four vocational training centres for refugee and local youth.

With the large influx of refugees from Somalia this year, more than half of whom are children, the demand for classrooms, desks, stationery, textbooks and teachers in Dadaab has increased dramatically at least 75 new schools will need to be built.

Currently, there is only one teacher for every 100 pupils. In some of the schools, teachers work double shifts, teaching one group of children in the morning and another in the afternoon. Most of the teachers are refugees themselves. For teenagers, opportunities to start or continue formal education are few.

Because of overcrowding, most of the refugees arriving from Somalia this year settled outside the three existing camps with little access to basic services. In recent weeks, UNHCR has been transferring these refugees to two new sites. To date, some 30,000 refugees have been relocated to the new sites, where UNHCR is building temporary schools for 14,000 children.

By William Spindler in Dadaab, Kenya

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Education

Education is vital in restoring hope and dignity to young people driven from their homes.

DAFI Scholarships

The German-funded Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative provides scholarships for refugees to study in higher education institutes in many countries.

Chad: Education in Exile

UNHCR joins forces with the Ministry of Education and NGO partners to improve education for Sudanese refugees in Chad.

The ongoing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region has uprooted two million Sudanese inside the country and driven some 230,000 more over the border into 12 refugee camps in eastern Chad.

Although enrolment in the camp schools in Chad is high, attendance is inconsistent. A shortage of qualified teachers and lack of school supplies and furniture make it difficult to keep schools running. In addition, many children are overwhelmed by household chores, while others leave school to work for local Chadian families. Girls' attendance is less regular, especially after marriage, which usually occurs by the age of 12 or 13. For boys and young men, attending school decreases the possibility of recruitment by various armed groups operating in the area.

UNHCR and its partners continue to provide training and salaries for teachers in all 12 refugee camps, ensuring a quality education for refugee children. NGO partners maintain schools and supply uniforms to needy students. And UNICEF is providing books, note pads and stationary. In August 2007 UNHCR, UNICEF and Chad's Ministry of Education joined forces to access and improve the state of education for Sudanese uprooted by conflict in Darfur.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Chad: Education in Exile

Education for Displaced Colombians

UNHCR works with the government of Colombia to address the needs of children displaced by violence.

Two million people are listed on Colombia's National Register for Displaced People. About half of them are under the age of 18, and, according to the Ministry of Education, only half of these are enrolled in school.

Even before displacement, Colombian children attending school in high-risk areas face danger from land mines, attacks by armed groups and forced recruitment outside of schools. Once displaced, children often lose an entire academic year. In addition, the trauma of losing one's home and witnessing extreme violence often remain unaddressed, affecting the child's potential to learn. Increased poverty brought on by displacement usually means that children must work to help support the family, making school impossible.

UNHCR supports the government's response to the educational crisis of displaced children, which includes local interventions in high-risk areas, rebuilding damaged schools, providing school supplies and supporting local teachers' organizations. UNHCR consults with the Ministry of Education to ensure the needs of displaced children are known and planned for. It also focuses on the educational needs of ethnic minorities such as the Afro-Colombians and indigenous people.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

Education for Displaced Colombians

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

Over the weekend, UNHCR with the help of the US military began an emergency airdrop of some 200 tonnes of relief supplies for thousands of refugees badly hit by massive flooding in the Dadaab refugee camps in northern Kenya.

In a spectacular sight, 16 tonnes of plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, tents and blankets, were dropped on each run from the C-130 transport plane onto a site cleared of animals and people. Refugees loaded the supplies on trucks to take to the camps.

Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 160,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, has been cut off from the world for a month by heavy rains that washed away the road connecting the remote camps to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Air transport is the only way to get supplies into the camps.

UNHCR has moved 7,000 refugees from Ifo camp, worst affected by the flooding, to Hagadera camp, some 20 km away. A further 7,000 refugees have been moved to higher ground at a new site, called Ifo 2.

Posted in December 2006

Flood Airdrop in Kenya

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