Magazine article New Internationalist

Education Is Not a Luxury

Magazine article New Internationalist

Education Is Not a Luxury

Article excerpt

ORIGINALLY ESTABLISHED IN the early 1990s to serve refugees from Somalia, the Kukuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya are now home to around 60,000 and 170,000 refugees respectively. Displaced from their home countries by war, poverty or political strife, the refugees come from a number of countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Uganda. Many have spent their entire lives in the camps, with little opportunity to earn money, and movement outside the camps is severely restricted. To some, the camps are both exile and prison, but education and reading offer the chance to learn and to experience something new. According to a recent UN Refugee Agency report, such opportunities are crucial.

'Education for refugees is almost as important as meeting their physical needs for food, water, shelter and health. Education is not a luxury. It is the most critical element in bridging the gap between relief assistance and durable solutions. Whether the refugees eventually repatriate voluntarily, settle locally, or resettle in a third country, basic education will be essential for their successful integration and future development.'

The Windle Trust Kenya works in the camps to provide opportunities for refugees to gain an education. English classes for children and adults are a core part of their work. A common language is essential in the camps, where there are eight different nationalities and many languages spoken. John Wakese, who works in Kukuma refugee camp for Windle, has seen the impact that learning English can have in the camps: 'English language tuition has promoted peaceful co-existence, enhanced survival and protection of particularly vulnerable groups and has given young refugees the chance to gain further training. …

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