The provision of tertiary/higher education for long-term refugees
The provision of tertiary/higher education for long-term refugees such that supports the production of the higher-order capacity necessary for promoting peace, security and development in the Global South is emerging as a crucial form of development assistance.
While the above-mentioned benefits of higher education for refugees in countries of origin and host countries are well-documented, solutions for effective delivery that can reach significant numbers of refugees are few. To date, international scholarships to travel to institutions in the Global North, of which Canada is a significant contributor, remain the predominant scheme to address the need for tertiary education for only a negligible few (about one percent). Despite the technological advancements made in education service delivery internationally, poor countries of asylum such as Kenya, that host a
significant number of long-term refugees, currently lack sufficient capacity to provide on-line and on-site degree programs that allow the realization of education as a right for this excluded group. As a country that has embraced and promoted technological advancement in education, Canada and its educational institutions are in an excellent position to lead a cutting edge initiative that will offer higher education opportunities to refugees despite contexts of conflict, violence and exile.
Focusing mainly on Dadaab Kenya (DC-K), where a group of three camps comprise one of the largest refugee clusters in the world, hosting 300,000 refugees from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, in addition to forced migrants from other areas in Kenya, the goal of this Cluster is to study access to and impacts of education for long-term refugees through on-line/on-site courses and degree programs. Through the mobilization of a North-South multi-stakeholder network and based on the outcome of research that probes the consequences of protracted refugee situations, specifically in the Dadaab camps and in relation to limited educational opportunities currently offered, we aim to achieve the following objectives: (1) to analyze the needs, openings and obstacles to delivering portable skills to refugees who are not 'at home' and determine the best way of providing tertiary education for refugees based on the contextual needs of refugee youth; (2) to explore models that support participation of refugee populations in tertiary education.
Helping refugee youth to re-build and/or start their lives away from the dangers of being drawn into militia organizations, prostitution, early or forced marriage, trafficking or other risky ventures, requires that these youth are prepared for the labour market through training and education. While there is a fairly widespread availability of basic elementary schooling in the three Dadaab refugee camps, in north-eastern Kenya, higher order training and education that leads towards qualifications that move youth beyond the camps and meet local industry and employer requirements is almost non-existent. Inspired by the desire of refugee youth to receive general and specialized skills in areas such as business, health, education and liberal arts, YU and local partners have discussed the opportunity to launch a project that combines the provision of a bridging program and tertiary education service to refugee youth in the Dadaab camps and Kenyan youth in the surrounding region. Innovative solutions that widen and strengthen access to higher education for these vulnerable groups are not readily available in Dadaab.
As of 2009, the teacher/student ratio in the camps was 1:68, with over 90% of these teachers being untrained. Within the three camps, there are 18 primary schools that cater to 37,125 learners (39% girls), and 3 official secondary schools with 2,705 learners (26% girls) (UNHCR 2009d). “Growing” better teachers in the secondary programs is the first step towards developing stronger, more robust secondary education and students and increasing retention. To this end, we will explore the possibility of providing "creditable" bridging courses for refugee teachers in the camps that could either be applied to their future university degree programs or to teaching certification in the camps. By offering tertiary opportunities to bright students, we not only provide them and others with a path towards university qualifications, scholarships and training opportunities, but also towards achieving the broader range of subject knowledge which can better qualify them to teach in the camps. Better teachers will raise the overall standards of high school education for the students and in turn, these students will inspire and mentor others.
While the number of refugee youth in the camp steadily increases, the level of funding and resources remains relatively static. Thus, exploring the creation and delivery of on-line courses, tuition and supervision, such that they meet international standards and are designed as “portable” methods of study within the unique environment and circumstances of refugee camps will be the focus of the feasibility study that will lead to a 5-6 year Pilot Project.
In 2011, Prof. Giles received major grants from the MasterCard Foundation as well as Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to do a needs assessment in the camp and to begin the work of developing online degree programs in partnership with Kenyatta University, Moi University, York University, University of British Columbia and NGO partners Windle Trust Kenya and World University Service of Canada (WUSC).
For more information about this Cluster, please visit the following websites: