Beyond Basic Education: Exploring Opportunities for Higher Learning in Kenyan Refugee Camps

By Wright, Laura-Ashley; Plasterer, Robyn | Refuge, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Beyond Basic Education: Exploring Opportunities for Higher Learning in Kenyan Refugee Camps


Wright, Laura-Ashley, Plasterer, Robyn, Refuge


Abstract

This paper seeks to elucidate the socio-cultural and economic benefits of higher education in refugee contexts. NGO and UNHCR initiatives in Dadaab and Kakuma camps are used as a reference point for discussing the challenges, best practices, and potential of higher and adult learning in contexts of protracted exile. This small-scale, qualitative study seeks to understand what opportunities for higher education exist for those living in Kenyan refugee camps, and do existing opportunities yield "social benefits" beyond those accrued by the refugees themselves? Drawing upon interviews with practitioners, observation in schools and learning centres, and data from refugee-service providers, our findings are primarily descriptive in nature and explore the myriad ways in which opportunities for higher learning can strengthen refugee communities in countries of asylum. We contend that although Kenya's encampment policies limit the potential economic and social benefits of refugee education on a national level, opportunities for refugees to pursue higher education are still immensely valuable in that they bolster refugee service provision in the camps and provide refugees with the skills and knowledge needed to increase the effectiveness of durable solutions at both an individual and societal level, be they repatriation, local integration, or third-country resettlement.

Resume

Cet article cherche a determiner les avantages socioculturels et economiques d'une education superieure pour les refugies. Des initiatives d'ONG et du Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les refugies (UNHCR) dans les camps de Dadaab et de Kakuma servent de points de reference pour une discussion des defis, des pratiques exemplaires et des possibilites d'une education superieure et d'un enseignement aux adultes dans des contextes d'exil prolonge. Cette etude qualitative a petite echelle cherche a determiner les possibilites d'offrir une education superieure aux habitants des camps de refugies au Kenya et a etablir si les occasions existantes donnent lieu a des << avantages sociaux >> autres que ceux qui sont acquis par les refugies eux-memes. Fondees sur des entrevues avec des praticiens, des observations dans les ecoles et les centres d'apprentissage ainsi que des donnees obtenues de fournisseurs de services aux refugies, nos constatations sont essentiellement descriptives et explorent les multiples facons dont les possibilites d'une education superieure peuvent renforcer les communautes de refugies dans les pays d'asile. Nous soutenons qu'en depit des politiques du Kenya sur le regroupement des refugies qui limitent les avantages economiques et sociaux potentiels de l'education des refugies a l'echelle nationale, les possibilites qu'ont les refugies de poursuivre des etudes superieures demeurent precieuses ence qu'elles renforcent la prestation de services dans les camps et fournissent aux refugies les competences et les connaissances qui sont necessaires a l'etablissement de solutions durables plus efficaces, tant au niveau individuel que societal, qu'il s'agisse de rapatriement, d'integration locale ou de reinstallation dans un tiers pays.

Introduction

Debates concerning higher education in the Global South, and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, have been at the forefront of international education policy and scholarship since the 1970s. (1) The key question at hand has been whether or not higher education Provides valuable social benefits at large, or simply posits personal rewards to those who have better access. In essence: do the private returns outweigh the relative social benefits of higher education in a development context? Until recently, this dialogue has focused on the outcomes of higher education for individuals within the nation-state system, but has rarely been extended to contexts of protracted exile. This paper seeks to address this gap by elucidating the value of higher education in protracted refugee situations with specific reference to Kenya. …

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