Secondary Education a Slim Hope for Refugee Youth
Volume 1, Issue 2 / January 2009
Of the 1,215 candidates who sat for the 2008 Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in Kakuma Refugee Camp, only 40 (3%) will be eligible to continue their education at the camp secondary school. With the classrooms of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School barely filled, the future of hundreds of youth is uncertain.
Of the 440 students who earned passing marks of 250 and above on KCPE exams, 400 were Sudanese. Under the Tripartite Agreement signed by the governments of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and the UNHCR, no Sudanese students will be allowed to enroll in form one of the camp secondary school.
Only 10 of the 40 non-Sudanese students eligible to attend secondary school are girls.
The deputy head teacher of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School reported on the current situation. “The school has admitted few students. There is not a single Sudanese in form one. But the school is looking forward to admitting more students from other schools outside the camp.” She refers to non-Sudanese refugee students attending Kenyan primary schools who attained passing KCPE marks.
In previous years, there was stiff competition for students to enter secondary school in Kakuma camp. Now with the new educational policy affecting Sudanese students, the form one classrooms of Kakuma Secondary School are largely empty.
Sudanese students say they are only left with only three options. Those who can afford school fees may attempt to join Kenyan schools, while those who cannot afford fees may return to Sudan to seek schools there. The third alternative is to stay in home in the camp and “bid education goodbye for life.”
Students who will be left out of secondary schools this year report mixed feelings. “I don’t know exactly what will happen to me,” says one Sudanese learner who passed KCPE with high marks. “I really had high hopes and great expectations of continuing with my education up to even university level. We were told to go back to Sudan and find a place in secondary schools in Sudan. I’m afraid there are no schools in Sudan and the few which are there don’t offer quality education compared to those in Kenya.”
Another Sudanese student shared, “I fear going back to Sudan. Some parts of Sudan have not yet received peace the one can trust. Peace has not really reigned in some regions. It’s like I’m forced to go back to my country yet peace is not there.”
The deputy head teacher of Kakuma Refugee Secondary School said the new policy cannot be changed and there is little she can do for students seeking education. But she adds, “In my opinion, the [Sudanese] students are denied their right to education.”
But according to an anonymous source, the UNHCR is not obliged to provide secondary education to refugee youth. “According to minimum requirements, UNHCR is only mandated to provide elementary education. So under those circumstances, we believe the objectives are met, even if global requirements aren’t met.”
UNHCR may consider it necessary only to provide refugee youth with a basic primary education, but the results of the KCPE exams demonstrate that they are failing to meet this standard. Only 36% of the students who sat for exams passed the minimum requirement for a primary education certificate.