Kenya: JRS helps local community in Kakuma
12 February 2010

A Turkana girl in traditional attire in Kakuma. JRS will sponsor seven children from the Turkana community for primary and secondary education. (Angela Hellmuth/JRS)
“We hope that through reintroducing our programme these most vulnerable students will get access to an education that meets their needs.”
Kakuma, 12 February 2010 — In an effort to respond to emerging needs in Kakuma, north-west Kenya, JRS will now extend its scholarship programme to the local Turkana community.

To encourage harmonious coexistence between refugees and locals, JRS will provide seven children from the local community with scholarships for education. Five children with disabilities will be sponsored for primary and secondary education and two for tertiary education.

This step is meant to acknowledge the hospitality A of the local community that has been accommodating tens of thousands of refugees from various African countries for 18 years. Resources in the remote, arid and hot region are scarce and the local community is as vulnerable and poor as the refugees. The fact that refugees receive assistance and locals do not while having to share their meager resources with the refugees has been a reason for explicit discontent on the side of the Turkana population in the past, leading to clashes with both refugees and the organisations assisting them.

Kakuma refugee camp currently hosts a population of 64,000 mostly Somali refugees while approximately 120,000 locals live around the camp including around 1,500 humanitarian workers.

The Turkana people are mostly nomadic pastoralists and have been adversely affected by the erratic rains in the dry and hot area. The Turkana District is located in a remote semi-arid area 95 km from the border with Sudan with high temperatures ranging from 30-40 degrees Celsius.

JRS has also reacted to a sharp rise in requests for scholarships from refugee students with disabilities for primary, secondary and tertiary education at Kenyan schools outside the camp. A needs assessment conducted by JRS confirmed that there are no special needs education programmes available in the camp. Fifteen children with developmental disabilities will now benefit from the scholarship programme at primary and secondary schools outside the camp. The programme has been reinvented after intakes were suspended in 2005 to encourage the repatriation of Sudanese refugees.

Refugees with disabilities in the camp hardly benefit from the established primary schools because they lack essential facilities for persons with disabilities. “We hope that through reintroducing our programme these most vulnerable students will get access to an education that meets their needs,” says Hezekiah Ronald Ombiro, JRS Project Director in Kakuma.

Just recently, a deaf student sponsored by JRS completed his O-levels at a special school and was subsequently hired as a teacher at one of the camp schools. 

Ekatan, another deaf student completed his primary education with good results at one of the camp schools although teachers there were not familiar with sign language. However, his parents could not afford further education for him. When he recently got a scholarship from JRS he was overwhelmed with joy. “Now there’s a real possibility for me to complete my education,” Ekatan said.

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