165 000 children and youth in the world’s largest refugee camp are deprived of their right to Education. A new report by NRC looks into the many reasons why the children are not in school – and what to do about it.
First and foremost, the refugee camps housing 463,000 registered refugees lack school buildings and teachers. Of Dadaab’s 221,000 school-age children and youth, only 57 000 are enrolled in school, according to the UN. The number of students who actually complete school is much lower as the drop out rates are very high especially for girls.
“We trained 120 refugees to interview more than 1,400 persons between the age of six and 18, to explore the reasons why children and youth are out of school. Perhaps most surprisingly, is that so many children, around 30 per cent, say that they are more interested in religions education which is basically provided for free. The second key reason for not attending school was the lack of money for learning material and school uniforms,” NRC Education Project Manager in Dadaab, Linda Kjosaas, explained.
Other reasons for not attending school were that their parents don’t think education is important (18.5%), that the distance to the school is too far (16%), and that they don’t speak English or Kiswahili (9.5%). Many children also said they cannot go to school because they have to work or take care of the family, something that particularly applied for the female respondents and that becomes more of a factor as the children get older. Others said that they don’t feel safe walking to school. 6% said disability or sickness was preventing them from attending school.
Few girls in secondary school
The refugee camps in Dadaab in Kenya hosts more than 220,000 school aged children and youth, but only a limited number have access to education. Photo: Brendan Bannon/IOM/UNHCR
70 per cent of the population in Dadaab are children and youth under the age of 24. Due to famine and conflict in Somalia last year, there was a massive influx of 160,000 new arrivals of which 64 per cent were children. Even before the influx, the basic education services and the resources available in the camps were seriously overstretched.
Today, only 54,000 children are enrolled in primary school. It is normal to find children older than the age appropriate for each class. Less than 3,300 youth are enrolled in secondary school. Particularly girls’ access to secondary education is alarmingly low, as only 770 girls in Dadaab are enrolled in secondary school, according to the UN.
When asking the children who are not currently enrolled in school, 81 per cent said that they would like to go to school.
“The universal right to education applies also for refugee children in Dadaab, but only in theory. The international community has failed to provide access to education for the vast majority of children and youth in Dadaab. The Education sector is highly under-funded and down prioritized. The infrastructure is insufficient, with overcrowded classes contributing to lowering the quality of education provided. The international community has to step up and demonstrate the importance of investing in the development and future of young Somali refugees,” said NRC Regional Director Hassan Khaire. Taking the findings forward
This week, NRC will present the findings in an inter-agency meeting in Dadaab, bringing together UN agencies, international and local NGOs. The assessment was conducted by NRC in collaboration with the Assessment Capacities Project (ACAPS), an initiative of HelpAge International, Merlin and NRC. The undertaking was supported by education partners in Dadaab, and funded by the Norwegian Government. The focus of the meeting will be on how the actors can utilize the information to tailor or redesign education programs to better meet the rights and needs of the young refugees.
Fast-tracking the school system
NRC supports education programs in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. These internally displaced children in Puntland, Somalia, got access to education when NRC built a school, trained teachers and provided school supplies. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl
One of the initiatives to improve access to education is the introduction of an Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) by NRC in Dadaab. This is part of the Education Strategy for Dadaab for 2012-2015, that was jointly developed by the Ministry of Education, UNHCR, UNICEF and all education partners operating in the Dadaab camps. NRC will implement ALP as a pilot in two of the camps, Ifo and Ifo 2. The pilot is planned for August 2012.
The Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) is a comprehensive education initiative designed as an entry point for children to join or re-join a country’s education system. ALP makes is possible for both over-aged and out-of-school children to receive a primary school certificate in a reduced number of years.
The main aim of the project is to integrate the refugee children into the formal education system and as such increase the over-all completion rate in the camps as well as ensuring a higher transition into secondary school and vocational training opportunities. NRC will take extra measures to include specifically vulnerable persons, like former child soldiers, teenage mothers and children with special needs, who have dropped out due to social stigma or limited access.
“Through the ALP, NRC has educated hundreds of thousands of children across the world, with good results. In Kenya, we are collaborating with the Kenyan Institute of Education, Save the Children and UNICEF to condense the formal curriculum and tailor it to the specific context of a refugee operation. We currently need funding to sustain this life-changing programme,” said Kjosaas.
In Dadaab, NRC is also running education centres for refugee and local youth, providing them with basic academic skills and vocational training through the Youth Education Pack. Around 600 students graduate annually and are provided with a start-up kit to run their own businesses. NRC provides ongoing in-service training to 57 YEP teachers in teaching methodology, life skills and other cross-cutting topics. NRC has also built three fully equipped permanent schools and three temporary structures for the 2011 emergency in addition to building classrooms in already existing schools.