“Such partnerships creates opportunities for vulnerable refugee children at the brink of missing secondary education.”
Bursting with dreams of becoming successful doctors and lawyers, six refugee students from Sudan, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi reported for their first day in secondary school, at the M-Pesa Foundation Academy in Thika, Kenya.
This is the first time refugees are being allowed to join.
The charitable Academy, which is owned by the leading telecoms and mobile phone service provider in Kenya, Safaricom, opened in 2016. It’s a state of the art school teaching Kenya’s national curriculum, entrepreneurship, technology and innovation to young bright students. Up until now, places were only available for Kenyan students. This is the first time refugees are being allowed to join.
After interaction with UNHCR, the UNHCR Refugee Agency in Kenya, we decided to open up the application process to refugee students as well.
16-year old Reech Deng Maketh is one of them. In 2013 his parents were killed in ongoing war in South Sudan. He fled with his three siblings to Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya. Being the first born child he became responsible for his siblings, heading up a child-headed home in the camp.
Cynthia Uwamahoro (Burundi), Cyiza Yvette Mutoni (Congo), Alith Duany Alith (South Sudan), Chani Osman Kocha (Sudan), Reech Deng Maketh (South Sudan) and Gieu Ayiik Ajak (South Sudan) peruse through their files as they await to be admitted at the M-PESA Foundation Academy in Thika Town. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
The three (3) girls out of the six (6) refugees who were admitted Cynthia Uwamahoro (Burundi), Cyiza Yvette Mutoni (Congo) and Chani Osman Kocha (Sudan) pose at their new school. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
UNHCR Assistant Education Officer Margaret Njayakio helps Cyza Yvette Mutoni, a 14 year old refugee from Burundi, to register at the M-PESA Foundation Academy. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
But Deng didn’t let this stop him from pursuing his education. He attended the Shambe Primary School in Kakuma refugee camp, and scored 312 out of 500 marks in his final Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams. He was not sure he would get a secondary school place because of a shortage of places for refugees. Nearly 5,000 students sat the exams in Kakuma.
“After four years here I expect to change my life.”
So Deng applied to join the M-Pesa Foundation Academy, and was among 190 selected for this year.
“After four years here I expect to change my life because I will get a good grades and do well and go to University. I would like to become a doctor and go back to help people in South Sudan. Because back home people die from all sorts of ailments.” Deng says.
16 year old Reech Deng Maketh lives in Kakuma refugee camp. He is originally from South Sudan. He fled with his three siblings to Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya. Being the first born child he became responsible for his siblings, heading up a child-headed home in the camp. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Gieu Ayiik Ajak score an impressive 412 marks out of 500 in the 2017 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. He was among the top performers in the country. "I feel very happy that we as refugees have been included to study at M-PESA Foundation Academy. I am very grateful for it. Since I love the sciences I will work hard so that I become a doctor. I also love basketball and I am happy because I will get to play while also studying." UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
"I feel very happy. I expect to pass in my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education after my 4 years here. I will also become a good leader. In future, I would like to become a lawyer so that I can see people being treated equally." 15 year old Alith Dunay Alith is a refugee from South Sudan. He lives in Kakuma refugee camp. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
'I want to become a lawyer because I want to fight for the rights of people from my country Congo so that they can get their rights. I also love handball and singing.' 14 year old Cyiza Yvette Mutoni from Congo fled to Kenya with her family in 2014. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Cynthia Uwamahoro a refugee from Burundi is another student starting at the Academy. The soft-spoken 14 year old was forced to flee to Kenya with her family in 2015 after war broke out in Burundi.
Cynthia’s performance at primary school was initially poor when she first arrived as a refugee, because she only spoke French, and the Kenyan curriculum is in English. But she was determined to learn English and do well.
“I am really happy. I am excited about the sports facilities at the Academy.”
“I did not give up. My teacher encouraged me to read many English novels and storybooks and I did. That is how I managed to pass with 369 marks out of 500 at primary school. I came for an interview at the M-Pesa Foundation Academy and got a place. I am really happy. I am excited about the sports facilities at the Academy. I love volleyball and I am looking forward to playing with other students and doing many other things.” Cynthia says.
14 year old Cynthia Uwamahoro who also loves Chemistry was forced to flee to Kenya with her family in 2015 after war broke out in Burundi. This traumatized her. “I am scared of going back to Burundi.” She explains. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Cynthia Uwamaharo (middle) from Burundi during the admission. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Cynthia Uwamaharo marks her items during admission. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Six (6) refugees joined the prestigious M-Pesa Foundation Academy on 16 January 2018. The refugees will be among the 192 students that will be admitted this year. UNHCR/Modesta Ndubi
Les Baillie is the Chief Executive Officer of the M-Pesa Foundation Academy.
“Every year we enrol about 200 students from the 47 counties in Kenya who are financially disadvantaged. After interaction with UNHCR, the UNHCR Refugee Agency in Kenya, we decided to open up the application process to refugee students as well. Having refugee students will give other students an opportunity to understand the refugee issue as well.” He says.
For refugee students, getting a place to join secondary school is not easy. Priority is always given to Kenyan nationals. Approximately 16,000 refugee boys and girls in Kenya are enrolled for secondary education out of a student refugee population of 190,000.
“Such partnerships, like this one with the M-Pesa Foundation Academy creates opportunities for vulnerable refugee children at the brink of missing secondary education.” Says UNHCR’s Assistant Education Officer, Margaret Njayakio. “Our hope is that many more opportunities will be made available and more institutions will take in refugees.”
According to UNHCR’s report “Left Behind: Refugee Education in Crisis” only 23% of secondary school age refugee children have access to education, compared to 84% of non-refugees, so what these students have achieved is momentous.