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View on a Joint Education Mission to Dadaab Refugee Camps

Sarah Wamaitha Kabura – Freelance Journalist.


Kenya is host to 560,134 refugees, 283557 of whom are hosted in Dadaab refugee camp1. The Dadaab refugee camp was established in 1991 by the Government of Kenya and UNHCR to host Somali refugees displaced by the civil war. Over the years the camp has also hosted other nationalities from the Horn of Africa, Great Lakes and East Africa regions. Currently, other nationalities constitute less than two per cent of the population. Over 60% of the current population in Dadaab is aged under 18, with 42.8% of school age (5-17) – 118,634 children. The number of children and youth continues to grow relative to the total population, while education and economic opportunities remain limited.


Situation of Education

Despite significant investment in the education sector over the years, delivering education in Dadaab is a major challenge. There are 35 primary schools and 7 secondary schools in Dadaab, all of which follow the Kenyan curriculum. Formal pre-schools are attached to the primary schools with additional community based facilities. An open door policy has been established with regards to primary education so that every child who approaches the system is admitted. While this policy supports the view that children are safer in school than in the community, it has led to extreme congestion in the teaching and learning facilities with an average pupil to classroom ratio of 1:87 – more than twice the national standard. This has put pressure on an already over-stretched cadre of teachers (20% female) who have very limited training and support opportunities, and among whom, there are very high attrition rates. 51% of children of school age (3-17 years) remain out of school2 with major implications with limited facilities and resources available to meet the rising demand for education. These statistics do not take into account the number of people in the camp, over 17 years old, who have also missed out on education and who want to access primary and secondary education to improve their employability. Only 13% of young people have access to a post-primary education option, and only 25% of secondary school students are girls. The low numbers of refugees accessing secondary education is indicative of a larger, serious protection issue: the gap in post-primary education options to meet the needs of significant numbers of out of school adolescents and youth

Despite this situation, considerable gains have been made over the years with regards to education outcomes, demonstrated by the 2015 KCPE results – 86% of candidates past the KCPE exam, up from 46% in 2010. Out of the current teaching cohort of 937, 100% have access to training courses, with two thirds enrolled in accredited certificate, diploma and degree courses.

Purpose of the mission

To support cross-border collaboration through strengthen coordination and information management; to improve awareness of the prevailing education situation in Central South Somalia.

Discussions were held with UNCHR Dadaab, key education partners, teachers, PTA members and community leaders both the new & old refugees in Dadaab to better understand the refugees return.



Progress of repatriation

Statistics indicate that as of February 2016, the total refugee population in the country stood at 341,5743. The registered refugee population numbered 276,945 as of 31 August 2016 (UNHCR, 2016), a reduction from 343,884 just four months earlier. As of September 2016, 24,630 Somali refugees had been supported in 2016 by UNHCR to return from Kenya to Somalia (UNHCR, 2016). A verification of camp residents exercise was undertaken in July and August 2016, identifying 40,649 people living in the camps as Kenyan citizens.

Areas of return are identified in the below table:

Areas of Return Individuals
Kismayo 12,167
Baidoa 5,890
Mogadishu 3,589
Luuq 2,984


Among those who have returned, 75% have no education, 10% have received some informal education, and 2% attended kindergarten. This leaves only 13% of those who have returned as having attended school implying that returnees are drawn from the most disadvantaged groups (UNHCR, 2016). Further, 52% of returnees in 2016 do not have a trade, and the single biggest reason for repatriation cited by returnees is lack of protection in Kenya (32% of respondents)4.

Impact of Repatriation on Education

As of September 30th 2016, 84,680 learners are enrolled in ECD, primary and secondary education in Dadaab. This figure represents a decrease of 2,234 over a four month period. Of 62,588 pupils attending primary schools in June 2016, of which 1,080 are registered candidates for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams (KCPE) in November 2016. Reports from the implementing partners also indicate that while the number of learners leaving the camp is quite low, attendance has been reported at 60% across the various levels (EMIS, September 2016). It was widely felt that there was no need to go to school as there was no scope for further quality education while in Somalia.

Lack of education facilities in Somalia have been reported as a strong deterrent to return for families living in Dadaab whose children have had access to education. While many of the indicators for education in Dadaab depict a fairly bleak picture, enrolment and completion rates have increased exponentially over

the past 5 years. Somalia has one of the world’s lowest gross enrolment rates for primary school aged children with only 30% children at primary education level and 26% for secondary education5. The net


  • UNHCR registration records


  • Voluntary Repatriation Analysis 22092016 UNHCR


  • Educational Characteristics of the Somali People Volume 3 UNPA 2016




Enrolment rate at primary schools remains at 17%. The number of out‐of‐school and at risk children and youth aged 6‐18 years is estimated at 1.7 million6. The majority of out of school children are found in Central and South Somalia, in the very zones where refugees from Dadaab are returning to according to the UNHCR intention survey. The primary barriers to education in these zones are the lack of safe spaces for learning (security), insufficient teachers (both qualified and unqualified), limited outreach by Ministry of Education among others.


Challenges in the Implementation of Repatriation:


  • Data: Lack of data on school age children of the returnees, level of education, areas of return (way Stations) was identified as a major concern. The missing link of school age going children needs to be included in the departure records by UNHCR Dadaab.


  • Coordination: Lack of coordination, information sharing on Education for returnees and links with Somalia stakeholders. No dialogue between the education stakeholders and an effective platform should be initiated to plan discussions on strengthening coordination


Information flow: Information sharing emerged as a particular concern for refugees since discussions on repatriation gained momentum. Incorrect documentation on what is actually being offered in Somalia has caused anxiety and distrust towards the implementing partners. In as much as the refugees are aware of the situation in Somalia, they need to get accurate and consistent information on relocation areas, available basic services, including education opportunities, and other opportunities in preparations for repatriation. Correct information is needed to allow


refugees to make an informed decision.


Decision-making: Children are not being included in the decision making process for repatriation and cases are being reported of the family returning to Somalia while the children remain behind to stay in school. This has implications for protection.


Policy Decisions and Strategic Guidance: There is also major concern among the refugees on education issues at policy level in Somalia such as curricula, certification, teachers and language of instruction.

Action points: Dadaab ECWG, Education Cluster, UNICEF KCO, UNICEF Somalia


Point of Action Timeline Responsibilities
Coordination and information management:
Quarterly meetings will be organised between the Ongoing UNHCR (Suleiman
Education Coordination Working Group in Dadaab and &  Cedric); UNICEF
the Education Cluster in Somalia to discuss and address KCO (Mohamed &
education needs in areas of departure. Jennie); SEC (Sara
Dadaab Education Working Group and Somalia & Boniface)
Education Cluster (SEC) to share regular meeting October 2017
schedules to enable representation from both sides and
continued flow of information.


  • Go-2-School Initiative 2013-2016







Provision of technical support on education to Regional

Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) framework at
regional and national level
Education Data: November 2017 UNHCR (Suleiman
UNHCR together with the education working group &  Cedric);
developed a tool that will capture the education details Education Cluster
of returnees’ children. UNHCR to provide this (Boniface & Sara)
information to Education cluster
SEC to share mapping of schools in Somalia
Repatriation Package: October 2017 UNHCR (Suleiman
SEC to engage the Regional Sub-Clusters to verify and &  Cedric); UNICEF
detail the information provided in the repatriation KCO (Mohamed)
package (UNHCR & NRC). This will include the numbers
of schools, the curricula and language used, and the
fees required
Advocate/ fundraise for adequate support for
education access based on the information provided by
the Regional Sub-Clusters should be a priority
Updated information to be shared with members of the
ECWG to enable consistent flow of information to
Institutionalization – Policy Decisions and Strategic Permanent
Guidance Policy Level Secretary Ministry
Somalia Education cluster has engaged the ministry of of Education
education to form a task force to comprise Federal (Yussuf Hassan) &
Government, Juba and South West administrations and SEC (Sara
partners. The MoE to take lead on this process. Skovgaard &
KCO to engage the MoE to ensure that all learners Boniface) ; UNICEF
registered to sit for their national examinations, both KCO (Daniel,
KCPE and KCSE, will be accorded the requisite support Jennie)
to enable them to adequately prepare and sit for the
upcoming exams.

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