Kakuma News Reflector – A Refugee Free Press

Setbacks in Education Look to Continue in 2009

Posted in Education by KANERE on December 22, 2008

An encouraging message on a classroom door.

An encouraging message on a classroom door.

Volume 1, Issue 1 / December 2008

As of November 2008, Kakuma Refugee Camp has approximately 10,400 pupils in primary schools and 800 pupils in secondary schools. Two thirds of the student population in each case is comprised of boys, while the remaining one-third is girls.

There are currently 14 primary schools and two secondary schools in operation. The educational staff of nearly 250 teachers is comprised of refugee and Kenyans working together under the overall coordination of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Education Department.

The overall performance of camp schools in national examinations has not been entirely pleasing to all stake holders. Under the primary school syllabus, six examinable subjects are taught: mathematics, science, social studies, religious education, and Kiswahili. In the year 2007, a total of 1,801 students sat for the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education exam (KCPE) in Kakuma camp schools. Of these, 593 students successfully passed their exams while 1,208 students failed. In other words, only 33% of pupils qualified for the certificate that would allow them to continue on to secondary school.

Where can we look to explain this poor performance? One issue concerns the chronic under-payment of teachers, prompting them to shift to other careers. A high rate of teacher turnover contributes to students’ low performances. Staff recruitment and replacement is disorganized to an extent that it delays the learning process. Even newly recruited teachers do not always stay for long before shifting to greener pastures.

A related issue concerns the collection of food during school days. The World Food Program (WFP) distributes rations twice per month at designated food distribution centers in the camp. For those refugees who have jobs with the health or social services sectors, identity cards are distributed in order to give them priority during long queues at food distribution. Unfortunately, a similar policy does not apply to teachers. Without identification documents, refugee teachers must skip class on food distribution days to persevere with long queues as they await their share of rations.

Food distribution during the school day also affects students’ performance, as pupils are not accorded special treatment during ration collection. Students who live alone or have no other family members to collect rations must incur absences from school in order to collect their food.

As a result of teacher and student absences, food distribution systems in the camp have a negative effect on education standards. One former secondary school teacher shares his experience in attempting to balance food collection and teaching pressures: “I remember a day that I missed food because I didn’t want to miss my class. But there was also a day that I came to collect my rations but couldn’t collect because of a long line and I wasn’t given priority because I had no staff ID. So I had to come back on another day in order to get my food. That means I ended up missing two days of class for my students.”

Language barriers have also exerted a negative impact on education. This is due to the use of English and Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in classrooms. Pupils unfamiliar with either language must struggle to adjust themselves to this challenging learning environment. Bearing in mind that most refugees come from nations that don’t speak either Kiswahili or English, the two language subjects on KCPE exams have proven especially difficult for many learners.

Due to these numerous constraints on the educational environment in Kakuma Refugee Camp, a few refugee parents who can afford to pay school fees have opted to take their children to private schools within the republic of Kenya. As the 2008 academic year comes to an end, there are no hopes for better things to come.

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6 Responses

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  1. Laura O said, on December 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm

    Can the LWF be petitioned to pay a higher salary? How does the teacher salary in Kakuma compare to teacher salaries in the Kenyan private schools or the other refugee camps?

  2. KANERE said, on January 11, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Yes, the LWF can be petitioned for higher salaries. All refugees employed by UNHCR and NGOs are offered “incentives” for their work. The monthly incentive payment for a refugee teacher is 3,000 Kenya shillings, or about $40 USD. By comparison, the monthly payment for a Kenyan public school teacher ranges from 15,000-20,000 Kenya shillings (about $190-$255 USD). Kenyan “casual teachers” (those without teacher training) are employed by LWF at a rate of 6,000 Kenya shillings (about $80 USD). It is reported that refugee incentive payments are higher in other refugee camps (e.g., Dadaab camp in Kenya), although this is not confirmed.

  3. Marc Schaeffer said, on January 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    RESPECT International works to introduce refugee student around the world to non-refugee students by penpal letter exchange. If any teachers in Kakuma would be interested in involving their students in this pen-pal exchange opportunity, please contact me by email for more information and visit our website! http://www.respectrefugees.org respect@respectrefugees.org

  4. KANERE said, on January 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you for getting in touch with us! Your initiative will provide an excellent opportunity for students in Kakuma to interact with their peers internationally. We will share your email with Kakuma Camp teachers who will follow up with you soon.

  5. School of Social Work said, on November 6, 2009 at 9:10 am

    This is very terrible news for those students !
    If the academy will closed then what happen to the children who are learning there.
    Can (WFP) World Food Program arrange some facilities for teachers who work there and as well as students who study there and have no one who can collect their rations and school can also start night classes for students and teachers so who are unable to attend their classes on regular time they can manage their work?

    What do you think about that ???

  6. milkah wanjiku said, on February 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

    well,am a graduate teacher to be in june from the university of Nairobi.am writing to seek for an employment opportunity in the camp as a secondary teacher.


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