Refugee student in Kenya selected to join First Lady’s mentorship programme

“When I met her I felt great. The First Lady did not care that I was a refugee.”

Divine Kasanga Justin at the Pupils' Reward Scheme (PURES) Village in Statehouse Nairobi at the end of the one (1) week mentorship program. She was among 46 other top students from other counties in Kenya who took part in the program. ; President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta launched the unique mentorship project to benefit bright pupils from across the country in 2015. Divine Kasanga was the second best performing student in Turkana County in the 2016 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). She is among the few lucky students to have been admitted to the only girls boarding facility in Kakuma refugee camp, Angelina Jolie Girls Boarding Primary School.

NAIROBI, Kenya – Divine Kasanga, a refugee student from Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County, north west Kenya has been invited to join Kenya’s First Lady’s, mentorship programme. The invitation comes after Divine got one of the highest primary school exam results in the country.

The 16 year old scored 402 out of 500 marks in the national primary school exams, known as, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). She came second out of 3,894 refugee students who sat the exam in Kakuma, and was the number one female student in the county.

‘The First Lady doesn’t care that I am a refugee.’

Divine says she is thrilled to be part of the First Lady’s mentorship programme.

“The First Lady doesn’t care that I am a refugee. This experience is good and encouraging. This programme is important in educating young people. The First Lady is passionate about young people and she is very humble.”

The mentorship programme will give Divine the opportunity to further her academic achievements, and learn new skills. She will be mentored by staff of the programme, called the Pupils Reward Scheme. Divine and her fellow mentees will also get the opportunity to meet important people such as government officials, and visit key public institutions in Kenya, like the law courts and government ministries.

Divine has overcome difficult circumstances to achieve academic success and be recognised by the First Lady. Her parents were assassinated in Congo when she was just 4 years old, and she was raised by her cousin, before fleeing to Kakuma in 2011. On how she’s been able to achieve Divine says;

“My only secret to success is discipline and hard work. You might be a bright student but without discipline you may not make it.”

Divine Kasanga receives a gift from the First Lady H.E. Margaret Kenyatta when she visited them at the Pupils Reward Scheme (PURES) in Statehouse. Photo Courtesy of PURES

Kenya. High achieving Congolese refugee

“I want to be an engineer.” Divine Kasanga is 2016 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education(KCPE) second best performing student. 15 year old Congolese refugee living in Kakuma wants to be an engineer. ; Divine Kasanga is an orphan living with her cousin's family in Kakuma. She is among the few lucky students to have been admitted to the only girls boarding facility in Kakuma refugee camp.

Divine Kasanga addressing her peers at Statehouse, Nairobi. Photo Courtesy of PURES

Divine Kasanga got the opportunity to visit the Meteorological Department in Nairobi. Photo Courtesy of PURES

Photo Courtesy of PURES


Divine and the First Lady of Kenya



As a result of doing so well in the KCPE exam, Divine now attends one of the country’s top secondary schools, Loreto Convent in Kitale County, alongside other best performing refugee students, who through UNHCR and partners have received a scholarships to further their education.

Divine puts part of her success down to the opportunity to study at UNHCR’s Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie’s, funded and supported primary in Kakuma camp.

Her former Head teacher at the school, Isabella Muthoni, says Divine was invited to First Lady’s mentorship programme because of her ‘humility and positive attitude’.

‘Though I am a refugee here, I want to use my role in the mentorship programme to help build a better Kenya, because it is the country hosting me and my family.’

UNHCR Education Officer, Mohamud Hure says Divine is an example to all refugee and non-refugee primary school students, in Turkana County and across the country.

“Divine’s success and the attention she’s getting shows us the transformative power of educating young refugee girls, many of whom face innumerable odds.’’

Despite Divine’s tremendous achievement and that of other refugee students, there are still many challenges to providing education in Kakuma refugee camp.

There are only 21 primary schools and 5 secondary schools for a school population 83,623 pupils. This leads to massive overcrowding with some classrooms with as many as 150 pupils.

With this in mind, Divine says she feels lucky to have passed so well and be recognised nationally.

“Though I am a refugee here, I want to use my role in the mentorship programme to help build a better Kenya, because it is the country hosting me and my family.”

Divine is being joined in the mentorship programme by 46 other top primary school exam performers from across Kenya’s 47 counties.