"If you educate a woman, you educate a family, if you educate a girl, you educate the future." - Queen Rania of Jordan
Education for girls in refugee camps and surrounding host communities of Garissa and Turkana Counties of north Kenya has been significantly lower than the national average, leaving them with more domestic burdens, less time for schoolwork and fewer opportunities to attend class than boys.
The Kenya Equity in Education Project (KEEP) and the Equity in Education in Refugee Camps in Kenya (EERCK) project aim to improve learning outcomes of refugee and host community girls through support at the individual, school and community levels. Both projects use the World University Service of Canada (WUSC)’s remedial classes to support marginalized girls in refugee and host communities who are falling behind academically, and at risk of dropping out of school. These classes provide girls with a space to read and accelerate the learning process as they often do not get the opportunity to do so within their community.
Through EERCK, the remedial program is currently being implemented in Kenyan refugee camps and host communities (Dadaab and Kakuma). The Kakuma Refugee Camp serves refugees from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Uganda, and Rwanda. The Dadaab camp mainly serves refugees from Somalia.
This is a story of the circle of life. What goes around comes around. Those that have been helped before want to work hard to repay that. Teachers within these refugee camps were once the students they now teach. They exist to share their knowledge and empower girls in refugee camps to succeed. What ties it all together is community.
WUSC has discovered that untrained teachers (in this case, refugee teachers), are performing better than professionally trained teachers who teach in public schools. Timothy Kinoti, Evaluation and Learning Manger with WUSC believes this is because “non-trained teachers speak from life experience in learning rather than the trained teachers who sticks to books”. Real learning comes from outside the classroom and these girls are ample proof that given the right opportunity and environment, they perform well. The HEA is also working to uncover precisely why this is the case by incorporating a mentorship and classroom observation tool that will yield tangible results.
Due to the approachable nature of teachers, girls are able to access them easily and receive one-on-one teaching support. Anecdotal evidence demonstrates that girls feel free enough with their teachers to ask and truly learn what they are studying. While the teachers are not professionally trained, they have undergone tailor-made trainings to help them cope with the growing size of classes and deliver efficiently. WUSC works with teachers who were previously among the best performers in the camp and are typically on the verge of going into tertiary education.
Parents themselves are increasingly showing their support for their daughters to join the EERCK project. Seeing other former refugee students become teachers and play such an influential role within their community motivates parents to send their daughters to school. Demand has grown so high they can currently take in no more girls. WUSC works hard not to disrupt the family set up and instead, integrates support for learning into the lives of these girls without the added time becoming a threat to their families. The participatory communal approach of WUSC is what makes it so unique and successful as Kinoti aptly points out “we do not select girls to come to school. We engage communities and parents”.
WUSC’s vision for the future is that all these girls be given the opportunity to move forward. In order to boost these girls’ and their prospects for the future further, next steps would be to look at how these girls can set up their own businesses and give back to the community they learned so much from.
Empowering girls with education will mean that they not only have better abilities in critical life skill areas linked to academics but also improve their self-confidence and self-esteem, setting them up for success in the long-term.