Kepler Partnership with UN Refugee Agency for Refugee Higher Education in Rwanda

October 2016 will mark one year since MIDIMAR, UNHCR and Kepler, through generous support from the IKEA Foundation, launched Kepler’s first campus in Kiziba refugee camp, in Western Rwanda, which is the oldest of the country’s six camps.

This October 2016 will mark one year since the Government of Rwanda Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Kepler marked the launching of a new higher education project for refugees in Rwanda, made possible through generous support from the IKEA Foundation. The program saw the establishment of Kepler’s first campus in a refugee setting in Kiziba Refugee Camp, in Western Rwanda, which is the oldest of the country’s six camps—with 2016 marking its twentieth year.

Kepler’s project in Kiziba began with an initial intake of 25 refugees in 2015, with an additional cohort of 25 accepted in 2016, and the same envisaged in 2017. Kepler has also conducted an assessment in Rwanda’s newest refugee camp, Mahama, which is home to 50,000 Burundian refugees who fled election-related insecurity in April 2015. Based on the findings, Kepler is looking into possibilities to fund an admissions preparation program in Mahama, as was done in Kiziba last year. This would support students preparing for university whether at Kepler or other institutions.

Through the innovative Kepler program, refugee students in Rwanda have a unique opportunity to access tertiary education, and eventually to achieve self-reliance. UNHCR has worked closely with the Government of Rwanda to ensure education for refugees, including through inclusion of refugees in national schools per the Government’s generous policy of integration. Today, half of all refugee students attend national schools alongside host community students. The opening of Kepler’s program in Kiziba now provides an avenue for refugee students—some of whom have excelled in their studies, even earning some of the highest scores in national exams—to go even further in the education cycle.

 The primary and secondary schools in Kiziba Camp have demonstrated high quality of learning achievements throughout the past years, which is what led to the camp’s selection for the first Kepler programme for refugees. Kepler runs a blended learning approach throughout its programmes, through which graduating students receive a United-States-accredited university degree with Kepler’s credentialing partner Southern New Hampshire University.

UNHCR fully supports Kepler’s program in Kiziba and will continue to identify ways to expand the partnership to reach refugees in other camps in Rwanda, and around the world.