Of the countries with the highest number of refugees, Kenya’s education system is among the top eight most inclusive, reveals a new Unesco study.
Improving access to education for refugee children therefore has the potential of raising its rankings even higher.
The country, which hosts nearly a half a million refugees and asylum seekers, is among the seven Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) member states that committed in 2017 to achieve inclusive education for refugees by 2020.
By signing the statute, Kenya effectively committed to, among a litany of specific things, ”respond to the distinct learning needs of refugee and returnee boys and girls and ensure they have equitable and inclusive access to education”.
The right of children, including refugee children, to access education is one of the most threatened human rights, with the current number of migrant and refugee children estimated to fill over half a million classrooms or equivalent to almost half the school-aged population in Europe, according to Build Bridges, Not Walls, the Global Education Monitoring Report, 2019. The number signifies a 26 percent increase since 2000. Education is still one of the most pressing unmet needs in Kenya’s refugee camps, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The refuge agency cites many challenges including lack of enough and qualified teachers, limited learning materials and poor infrastructure as some of the issues that pose a threat to quality education for learners in camps.
”It is countries like Kenya with the highest number of refugees but with limited resources who are leading the way in ending exclusionary practices,” says Manos Antoninis, director of the global education report.
It is estimated that globally, refugees have missed 1.5 billion days of school since the landmark New York Declaration in 2016 in which member states pledged to unite and assist in saving and protecting the lives of refugees, including the right to education.
The government is currently rolling out a Refugee Education Management Information System to collect refugee education data possibly to develop inclusive policy, but a lot more resources will be needed to implement any good policies that come up, even at a time when the government is facing resource challenges in implementing existing policies.
Globally, more than half (52 percent) of the refugee population are under the age of 18. About four million refugee children are out of school, over half of the 7.4 million refugee children of school-age under UNHCR’s mandate.
The Dadaab refugee complex, which hosts more than 200,000 refugees and asylum seekers, paints the picture of a serious education crisis among refugees. The camp has 120 students per teacher in pre-primary school, and 56 pupils per teacher in primary schools, according to Unesco. There is a huge shortage of other educational resources. For instance, six students share a desk and four share a textbook in English, mathematics, science and social studies. This is four times lower than the government national target of one textbook per pupil.
Children in many remote and insecure parts of the country have predicaments similar to those of refugee camps.
Teachers in displacement settings also need adequate training to deliver high standards of education, yet only eight percent of primary school teachers in Dadaab camp and 27 percent in Kakuma were certified in 2016, according to Unesco.
The teacher workforce also lacks gender balance, with about one in eight (13 percent) being female, largely due to safety considerations and biased cultural practices.
TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said the Al-Shabaab menace and the general insecurity in the arid and semi-arid counties of Mandera, Wajir, Lamu and Garissa has affected recruitment of teachers.
To increase the number of teachers in arid areas, the National Assembly’s Education Committee has asked the government to review hardship allowances from time to time with a view to enhancing payments to the teachers deployed in the areas.
Unesco also notes that in spite of Kenya having a dedicated National Council for Nomadic Education, education still needs to be more flexible to their lifestyle. Data from the Ministry of Education shows that close to one million children are out of school in arid and semi-arid areas.
The Unesco education report recommends protection of the right to education of migrants and displaced people, and inclusion of migrants and displaced people in the national education system. ”Understanding and planning for the education needs of migrants and displaced people, and representing migration and displacement histories in education accurately to challenge prejudices prepare teachers of migrants and refugees to address diversity and hardship,” recommends the report.