|"This is the only such program here," says Bol, a Sudanese refugee who came to Kakuma nine years ago and signed up for the diploma course. "I am very happy to participate in this program. Life in a refugee camp is very difficult without access to further studies. Now that I study I know that I will be of use for my community in the future," he adds.|
by Angelika Mendes
Jesuit Refugee Service Eastern Africa
(Nairobi, Kenya) March 15, 2011 — Refugees in Kakuma refugee camp in northwestern Kenya now have access to higher education following the launch by Jesuit Refugee Service of a new distance-education project with U.S. universities.
The Jesuit Commons — Higher Education at the Margins (JC-HEM) project offers a dynamic and flexible model of education to refugees, promoting education as a fundamental human right in the most rugged circumstances. In Kakuma, at least 100 refugees are expected to participate in the new program during the first year.
"While most refugees have access to primary and some to secondary education, we have seen a strong demand for tertiary education," says Christine Mwaniki, JRS Kenya Director. “The new program brings refugees into a wider academic community, engages their minds and equips them with skills they can apply today to improve the lives of those around them,” she adds.
The program combines the best of new technology with the Jesuit concept of pedagogy which guides students to discover their full potential and encourages them to apply the gained knowledge for the benefit and development of their communities.
"We want to educate women and men for others," says Ms. Mwaniki. "This means students will help find solutions for specific challenges in the camp and support others with the skills they acquire. The education they receive will ultimately empower the whole refugee community and make them less dependent," she adds.
Using the expertise of Jesuit universities and JRS field staff, the program will use the internet, online learning techniques and on-site teachers to offer an accredited Diploma in Liberal Studies course as well as certificates of learning, known as Community Service Learning Tracks (CSLTs).
The Diploma in Liberal Studies is a three year program that will focus on areas such as humanities, leadership, business studies and communication. Regis University in Denver, Colo., offers the academic accreditation for the program. Students who are resettled to a third country or who, for other reasons, cannot complete the whole course can receive a certificate after each year that allows them to continue their studies in any other academic institution.
Currently, 35 students from eight different nationalities, including four Kenyans from the local Turkana community, are studying for a Diploma in Applied Liberal Studies and a second cohort will start in September.
The CSLTs are three months courses, designed specifically to tackle particular needs identified within the camp. In Kakuma, psycho-social case management has been defined as one such need and already training of 21 students including two members of the Turkana host community is under way.
"This is the only such program here," says Bol, a Sudanese refugee who came to Kakuma nine years ago and signed up for the diploma course. "I am very happy to participate in this program. Life in a refugee camp is very difficult without access to further studies. Now that I study I know that I will be of use for my community in the future," he adds.
Though often thought of as transitory, refugee camps and refugee populations are increasingly static. The average length of stay in a protracted refugee situation is now approaching 20 years, up from an average nine years in the early 1990s. Kakuma refugee camp was set up in 1992 and today hosts a population of more than 80,000 refugees.
Jesuit Commons - Higher Education at the Margins (JC-HEM)
JC-HEM is a partnership initiative between Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) and Jesuit Commons (JC). In the pilot phase of the program, ending in August 2014, more than 1,500 refugees are expected to participate in Kakuma (Kenya) and Dzaleka (Malawi) refugee camps, and in Aleppo (Syria).
Jesuit Commons (JC)
Jesuit Commons is a consortium of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S., committed to linking worldwide Jesuit educational resources with those populations affected by war, displacement and poverty.
More information about the Jesuit Commons can be found on their website, www.jesuitcommons.com