An Ambitious Education Pilot Project Comes to a Kenyan Refugee Camp


Kakuma refugee camp, located in the Northwest region of Kenya is host to refugees from a number of African countries.  (Photo credit: Ugandan Diaspora News.)

“The goal is to use education to help the refugees develop the confidence to build their futures and be productive members of the community, whether it is in Kakuma, in their homeland or somewhere else.” – Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser of Qatar, founder of Education Above All.

Overview of the Situation

On November 5, Education Above All, a foundation that focuses mainly on providing primary education to children in developing countries, and UNHCR announced that they have partnered together (in cooperation with the Kenyan government) to launch a pilot program in education specifically for refugee camps. The initial project will take place in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is home to approximately 180,000 refugees (of which slightly over half are children). The announcement took place at the World Innovation Summit for Education in Qatar.

MDGs, EFA, and the Kakuma Project

The scope of the Kakuma Project, which has been in development for the past two years, is ambitious: A recent Gulf Times article reports that an estimated 70,000 people stand to benefit. What’s more, a range of education options will be available, beyond what the Millennium Development Goals call for. Whereas another Education Above All program, Educate A Child, focuses on providing “quality primary education” to children in developing countries, in line with Target 2.A of the MDGs, the Kakuma Project also includes early child care, secondary education, vocational training, and adult literacy classes. Thus, the Kakuma Project’s expanded agenda is more in line with Education For All’s goals, announced at the World Education Forum in Dakar months prior to the MDGs.

Education and Refugee Issues

Providing even basic primary education in a refugee camp is extremely challenging—one reason why education for IDPs and refugees is often overlooked. There are a number of factors outside of the classroom that increase exponentially the difficulties of educating a displaced child. For example, the UN World Food Programme, scrambling for funding, its budget stretched thin as it responds to various needs around the world, has been forced to reduce the rations of refugees in Kenya (and elsewhere) by about 50%. A lack of proper nutrition affects a child’s mental and physical development.

Thus, the Kakuma Project takes what it terms a “holistic” approach–which is to say, it takes into consideration the factors that impact education outside of the “black box,” such as access to food and water, as well as health care and sanitation. The organization recognizes that all of these issues affect a student’s ability to learn as well as a child’s overall development.

Figuring Out The Specifics

On their website, EAA discusses the guiding principles behind the initiative, but they seem to still be figuring out the specifics as to the actual education that will be provided. For instance, the section of the Kakuma Project website titled “the approach” is currently blank – but it’s worth noting that the page currently exists and that content will likely be added at a later date. Questions worth addressing include: what language(s) will be taught (close to two dozen countries are represented in the camp), what will be taught (the curriculum)—particularly with regard to subjects such as history—and how it will be taught (teacher training, materials). Nevertheless, this ambitious project, rooted in the belief that education is a human right, has the potential to transform the way that education (and other forms of aid) is provided to refugees around the world.


Varghese, J. (6 Nov 2014). EAA launches education project in Kenyan camp. Gulf Times. Retrieved on Nov 21 2014 from

Press Release. Education Above All Launches Multi-Sector Education Project in Kenyan Refugee Camp. (5 Nov 2014). UNHCR. Retrieved on Nov 21 2014 from

Press Release. As food shortages hit 800,000 African refugees, UNHCR and WFP issue urgent appeal. (1 July 2014) UNHCR. Retrieved on Nov 21 2014 from

Education Above All.


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