UNHCR promotes refugee education in northern Kenya


The UN refugee agency has sealed a struck on Wednesday inked partnership deal with two global technology firms to help promote education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to Somali refugees in northern Kenya.

   The UNHCR launched Community Technology Access (CTA) project, a comprehensive initiative to harness the potential of ICT for the improvement of teaching and learning in the world's largest refugee settlement at the Kenya-Somalia border.
   The project launched in Dadaab, in partnership with Microsoft and HP, targets three main areas: formal education, vocational training and community E-learning.
   "Access to quality education is a key precondition for the economic development and self-reliance of refugees as well as the enjoyment of many other human rights," UNHCR Representative in Kenya Elike Segbor said in a statement released in Nairobi on May 22.
   In 2012, UNHCR introduced a five-year education strategy that aims to increase access to higher education, expand the number of university scholarships and develop access to accredited distance-learning programmes for refugees.
   Segbor acknowledged participation by the community has been key to position the initiative well for success.
   "Refugees have taken full ownership of this project in identifying challenges, suggesting solutions and sharing responsibility over its implementation," Segbor said.
   According to recent UN, only 57,000 of  Dadaab's 221,000 school-age children and youth are enrolled in school, adding that the number of students who actually complete school is much lower, as the dropout rates are very high, especially for girls.
   Kenya also hosts nearly half a million refugees from Somalia and has delayed their repatriation until the security situation back home improves further.
   The UN refugee agency said shortage of funding problems and shortage of trained teachers have posed a challenge to ensuring quality education for more than 500,000 refugees in the world's largest refugee camp.
   Segbor said 41 per cent of the 279,000 youths and children in the camp were enrolled in primary schools and only 8.5 per cent in secondary education in 2012.
   The agency said many school-age youths arrived in Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp, with no prior education and school enrollment remains low.
   "Luckily, an innovative partnership with giant software and hardware corporations came in handy to help address these challenges," Segbor said.
   The CTA project, whose foundations were laid in early 2012, saw the agency distribute 32 computers this year in primary schools to help teachers collect student attendance and performance data.
   "These computers will also expose teachers to digital resources, including communities of practice and alternative teaching methods, " Segbor said.
   The UN agency said computer labs have also been established in secondary schools and equipped with 20 workstations each to allow for the teaching of computer studies, a highly valued and demanded course within the refugee community of Dadaab. More than 145 students have enrolled in IT classes so far.
   The Dadaab refugee complex shelters more than 460,000 refugees. A third of the population arrived in 2011 alone, fleeing the conflict, drought, famine and human rights abuses in Somalia.
   Jeffery Avina, Microsoft's Director of Citizenship and Community Affairs (Middle East and Africa) said the partnership has empowered youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment, and entrepreneurship.
   The project is the result of extensive and well-informed cooperation with the refugee community, parent-teacher associations, partner agencies and donors aimed at addressing a need that has long-been identified. (Xinhua)