15 October 2010
|A young refugee woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who participates in the new distance learning programme learns computer and writing skills on a laptop donated by JC-HEM in Kakuma refugee camp, north-west Kenya (Angelika Mendes/JRS)|
|In the first year, 70 students in Kakuma and Dzaleka camps will... study subjects such as anthropology, business studies, conflict management, critical thinking, intercultural communication, leadership, philosophy.|
Rome/Nairobi, 27 September 2010 — JRS has started a new education project in Kakuma refugee camp, north-west Kenya. It is part of JRS’ latest initiative, announced recently in Rome, which wants to bring higher education to refugees, promoting access to education as a fundamental human right. In the pilot phase of the programme, ending in August 2014, more than 1,000 refugees are expected to participate in three different countries.
In partnership with Jesuit Commons, the programme combines the best of new technology with the ancient Jesuit philosophy of Ignatian pedagogy which emphasises experience and new learning, reflection and evaluation, action and service.
Using the expertise of Jesuit universities and JRS field staff, the organisations plan to use both the internet and on-site teachers, mentors and tutors, to offer accredited certificate and diploma courses to refugees in Kakuma (Kenya) and Dzaleka (Malawi) refugee camps, and in urban areas in Syria, as well as certificates of learning, known as Community Service Learning Track (CSLT). In Kakuma, the project will be officially launched in January 2011, at the start of the academic year.
In the first year, 70 students in Kakuma and Dzaleka camps will be admitted to the Diploma in Applied Liberal Studies course and study subjects such as anthropology, business studies, conflict management, critical thinking, intercultural communication, leadership, philosophy. A second cohort will be enrolled in September 2011.
Each track will include six months of study and application of learning in the camp. For instance, students who study special needs in Kakuma, will help contribute to solutions of care for special needs children, adults and their families.
At the end of each year, students will receive Certificates of Completion from Regis University in Denver, USA, and after three years of successful studies, they will be awarded their diplomas.
However, providing education in circumstances like these is never without obstacles, both for refugees and service organisations. The location of the camps and environmental conditions, such as dust, heat and stormy winds, pose great challenges. The most evident challenge concerns establishing high quality internet access with sustainable power provision at the refugee camps.
But it is looking at the contrast between refugees' and campus students' lives that one readily realises these challenges, both academic and material, will be an ongoing struggle. Students often live in extreme poverty where access to food and basic services is never certain. In addition, there is violence in the camps, particularly against women.
Though often thought of as transitory, refugee camps and refugee populations are increasingly static. According to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), in 2009 there were some 30 major protracted refugee situations around the world. The average length of stay in these places is now approaching 20 years, up from an average nine years in the early 1990s. In that time a generation will pass away without returning to its home, while another will have been born and educated without ever seeing its homeland. Most refugees have had access to elementary education, some to secondary education, but very few have had access to higher education or the opportunity to complete previous tertiary studies.
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