Investing in Quality

Quenching the knowledge thirst – LWF’s contribution to refugees’ education in Kakuma

With about 175,000 refugees from 11 countries, Kakuma Refugee camp is among the most cosmopolitan areas in Kenya. This is one place in Kenya where communication is done in English, French, Arabic, Amharic and Swahili which are the mainstream languages that cater for the diverse nationalities and other ethnic communities living in Kakuma.

Majority of refugee-producing countries have no functional education systems especially in cases where displacement of large populations has been caused by armed conflict. The elite in the society usually flee directly to developed nations while the commoners are left to trek and cross international borders for their safety. These are the populations that end up in humanitarian camps, where the host nation, UN and international aid agencies struggle to meet minimum humanitarian standards to keep the population safe while providing life-saving and other critical interventions.

Apart from food, water, shelter and healthcare services, it has been agreed internationally that education is among the most critical interventions which is seen as a means of empowering the community to seek peaceful solutions to their problems as opposed to fighting. With education, a displaced population still has something they can use in future whether they remain in the camp, become integrated into the local hosting community, voluntarily repatriate or get resettled in third countries.

The laws of Kenya further provide for compulsory primary education and require that all children including refugees MUST attend school. But that is where trouble begins in Kakuma Refugee Camp because the camp is home to more than 107,000 children below 18 years. Out of this number, a total of 47,262 (26,881 boys and 20,381 girls) fall within the school going age of 3 to 14 years according to the Ministry of Education guidelines.

To put the matter into perspective, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is currently managing 32 schools comprising of 11 Early Childhood Development Education (ECDEs) also known as pre-primary schools and 21 primary schools with a combined population of 72,000 (28,000 female) learners. These are handled by 724 (636 Kenyan and 88 refugee) teachers. Only 21% of the total number of teachers is female. Simple mathematics indicates that the camp is far from attaining the minimum education standards.

The focus in the camp has always been on increasing access to education but LWF has been implementing various initiatives so as to improve the quality of education provided to refugees as well, with the third focus being on equity – ensuring that both genders are in school.


Congestion – An overcrowded class at a recently opened ECD centre operated by LWF Kakuma Sub-Program at Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement Site. Pic courtesy of LWF Kakuma 2016 ©

Despite the demand for education far outstripping the available resources, Kakuma refugee camp has gained fame and respect for its solid education programs which is thought to be of the best quality among the refugee operations in the region.

But what does it take to put all this together? Well, LWF reckoned the fact that it was very expensive and difficult to recruit qualified Kenyan teachers and deploy them to the camp. A learner population of 72,000 would ideally require about 1,800 teachers for whom the organization would have to pay salaries, accommodation and meals allowances, medical cover and other statutory deductions. A modest cost of US$ 600 per teacher per month comes to a monthly wage bill of more than US$ 1 Million which would be such a huge and unsustainable burden for any donor to shoulder. Matching the resources with the demand thus necessitated the recruitment of untrained teachers from the refugee community, specifically targeting those that have undergone the Kenyan education system and attaching them to work under supervision from qualified Kenyan teachers. This shadowing arrangement not only enhances community participation but also ensures continuity in cases where national teachers are unable to access the schools for one reason or another.

As the agency responsible for basic education in the camp, LWF has systematically and gradually been providing the refugee teachers with an opportunity to undergo various formal teacher training programs that eventually lead to certification, with an aim of enhancing the quality of teaching and learning in the camp schools. LWF is currently supporting refugee teachers to pursue 3 main programs, all conducted by reputable public institutions and these include:

Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers’ training

Currently there are 11,031 (5,699 boys and 5,332 girls) learners in 11 preschools managed by 138 (all refugee) teachers in the camp.

ECDE teacher training is offered during school holidays at the District Centre for Early Childhood Education (DICECE) in Lodwar town and targets pre-primary teachers, equipping them with relevant skills and qualifications to lay firm academic foundations for children as they prepare to join primary school. There are 3 levels namely ‘Proficiency’ that goes for 1 year; Certificate that takes 2 years and Diploma that also takes 2 years. Admission to any of the levels is thus based on the applicants’ Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) grades.

The US Government’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (BPRM) through the Lutheran World Relief (LWR) funds LWF to support 122 refugee teachers to attend various levels of the ECDE training every year. Part of the teachers’ contribution is by way of foregoing their holidays to attend classes, work hard and pass the examinations.

Since 2014, a total of 20 (17 male and 3 female) preschool teachers have been supported to attend the ECDE course out of which18 (15 male and 3 female) trained preschool teachers are still in active service, the other 2 having either voluntarily returned home, got resettled, or switched jobs.

There is still a gap of 154 (109 males, 45 females) preschool teachers who need to undergo ECDE training and for which additional support will be needed.

Primary Teachers’ Education (PTE) training

Kakuma Refugee camp has 61,518 (38,076 boys and 23,442 girls) in 21 primary schools managed by 586 (88 national and 498 refugee) teachers in the camp. This has a bearing on the quality of teaching and learning as the untrained refugee teachers often lack professional classroom management skills and are also likely to unknowingly violate the teachers’ code of ethics.

LWF is committed to change all this by ensuring that as many primary school teachers as possible attain professional teacher training qualifications. To achieve this, LWF maintains a long-standing memorandum of agreement with the Masinde Muliro University of Science & Technology (MMUST) to offer a tailor-made 1 year Diploma in Primary Teacher Education program for refugee teachers in Kakuma.

Since the beginning of this program in 2014, a total of 300 (241 male and 59 female) refugee teachers have graduated with a Diploma in Primary Teachers’ Education and the impact of the program so far is visible in the steady improvement in national examination results over the years.

The small number of female refugee teachers in the camp has a direct correlation with girl-child education especially in a camp set up where girls may drop out of school if there is no female teacher to act as a role model or mentor to look up to. At the same time, girls will also need someone that they can approach when faced with physiological changes, emotional imbalance and even harassment, which they may feel awkward when reporting to a male teacher.

As part of affirmative action, LWF with support from ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations) recently entered into an agreement with MMUST to design and conduct a bridging program that will specifically target both serving and potential female teachers, most of whom have been missing the minimum admission requirements for the Diploma program.

It is expected that the bridging course will gradually improve the number of female refugee primary school teachers progressing to the Diploma level and eventually attaining proper qualifications like their male counterparts.

The congestion in classes and the large number of candidates notwithstanding, Kakuma camp schools attained an average pass rate of 96% in 2015, which was way above the national average of 78%.

Year # of schools #of candidates Average score Variance
2013 13 948 259.36 +25.56
2014 13 1,500 259.22 -0.14
2015 19 2,939 269.34 +10.12

 A comparison of KCPE performance in Kakuma over the past 3 years

Special Needs Education

Kakuma Refugee Camp like any other community has Children living With Disability (CWDs) who also have a right to access quality education. It has been observed that some parents and caregivers of CWDs often keep these children away from school citing reasons such as bullying, discrimination and in many cases lack of adapted facilities, resources and trained personnel that can provide specialized care and attention to their children.

LWF strongly believes that every child must be granted an opportunity to access education, irrespective of their status. With support from donors such as the Australian Lutheran World Services (ALWS) among others, LWF’s Special Needs Education (SNE) Unit has been providing educational and psychosocial support to CWD living in Kakuma Refugee Camp.

LWF has an agreement with the Kenya Institute for Special Education (KISE) which is a public institution that provides specialized professional training for teachers who handle CWDs countrywide. Every year, ALWS funds the training of 15 refugee SNE teachers who undergo an intensive and examinable training that is usually conducted every school holiday by expert trainers from KISE.

All 33 pre-primary and primary schools managed by LWF in Kakuma have been adapted to remove physical barriers that would otherwise deter physically handicapped learners from accessing education. This includes installation of ramps, widening of doors and construction of disability-friendly latrines.

This dedicated attention is yielding impressive results so far as more parents and caregivers of CWDs are coming out and enrolling their children in school. There has been a 23% increase in the number of SNE learners from 916 (530 boys and 386 girls) learners at the end of 2014 to 1,130 (655 boys and 475 girls) learners as at July 2016. In 2015, LWF presented 5 SNE learners for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations with 4 proceeding to Secondary education.

SNE learners have also been participating in extra-curriculum activities such as Regional Music and Drama festivals within and outside Turkana County but have never participated in the National events for the last 2 consecutive years due to funding limitations.

Integrated learning – A learner with physical impairment attending class with other learners at Peace Primary School managed by LWF in Kakuma Refugee Camp. Pic courtesy of Bertha Wangari/ECHO ©

Overage learners

Finally, there is the delicate issue of overage learners who also yearn for education and have flocked primary schools alongside the young ones. Overage learners (mainly learners above 14 years of age) currently constitute about 34.65% of all learners enrolled in the camp schools. Some of the overage learners are actually young adults and their daily interaction with the young ones compromises the gains made in child protection as the presence of overage learners is likely to result into bullying among other possible forms of child abuse.

There was a huge sigh of relief when LWF finally secured funding from ECHO and EAC (Educate A Child) to launch Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) in Kakuma, based on the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) guidelines. Under this program, overage learners will have an opportunity to complete the primary school syllabus in 4 years instead of 8 and still sit the national primary examinations before transitioning to secondary school if they attain the minimum entry requirements.

To effectively implement Accelerated Learning Program, LWF is establishing 16 ALP Centers across the camp and will engage the services of national teachers with proven experience in running the Kenyan ALP model.

It is anticipated that this will help in decongesting the classrooms in the primary schools. It will also enhance protection for the younger learners as each class will mainly have age-appropriate learners. The dignity of overage learners will also upheld as they will only have their peers in class as opposed to sharing class with young children.

One previously unexpected outcome of the elaborate teacher training programs has been the notable high turnover of trained teachers – all for good reasons though. The 3 options available for refugees as durable solutions often include resettlement to 3rd countries, voluntary repatriation or local integration. LWF Kakuma takes pride in the fact that the trained teachers have so far fitted well and are adding value wherever their destiny – whether overseas, back home or locally.


About kwetukakuma

Documenting Kakuma... in pics and narrative.
This entry was posted in Hot Press and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s