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

Laura-Ashley Wright, Robyn Plasterer

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.

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