Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

A Mooc Makeover Saves Refugee Course

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

A Mooc Makeover Saves Refugee Course

Article excerpt

Chris Parr hears how shift saved interpretation programme from Kenyan government closure

A course developed by two universities that was intended to be delivered in a refugee camp in Kenya was nearly shelved because of government concerns that offering higher education to displaced Somalis might make them less likely to return home.

Barbara Moser-Mercer, professor of conference interpreting at the University of Geneva's Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, worked with academics at Kenyatta University in Nairobi to develop an interpretation course that was to be delivered in Dadaab, a town in eastern Kenya that is home to about 340,000 Somali refugees.

However, although international refugee law states that refugees have a right to primary and post-primary education, it does not extend to higher education, and Professor Moser-Mercer said convincing the Kenyan government to allow delivery of the course was a challenge.

"The Kenyan government felt that if higher education was offered to refugees in the camp, the refugees would want to stay in the camp and not return to Somalia," she told Times Higher Education.

To ensure that the course, a certificate in community interpreting, which can be used in places such as Dadaab, could proceed, Professor Moser-Mercer altered its method of delivery to make it more like a massive open online course.

Impasse broken

"The fact that courses such as Moocs are all offered at a distance was the argument that ultimately won [the government] over." She said that because free online courses would be available to the refugees regardless of whether they return home, resettle or remain in the camp, there was no danger that offering access to a web-based course in Dadaab would make any difference to their movement. …

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